Archive date: May 10, 2001
The Many Origins of Mother's Day
From Ancient Greece to North America
Mothers have been honored during the spring
for centuries. It seems the ideal time, with the explosion of nature, to
celebrate Mother Earth and all mothers that have provided us with
Mother's Day began as a celebration of ethereal mothers in ancient
Greece and Rome. The Greeks honored Rhea (mother Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades,
Poseidon and Zeus) with an annual spring festival. They would pay tribute with
honey-cakes, fine drinks, and flowers at dawn.
Early Christians honored
the Mother of Christ, the Virgin Mary, on the fourth Sunday of Lent. They would
adorn the churches with flowers, jewels, precious metals, and other expensive
gifts. England later expanded the holiday to include all mothers, and decreed
the fourth Sunday of Lent as Mothering Sunday. After church children went
"a-mothering", returning home with gifts, flowers, and special cakes.
celebration of Mother's Day did not extend to the United States until the
1900's. In 1870 Julia Ward Howe, author of the Battle Hymn of the
Republic, tried to establish Mother's Day for Peace after the Civil War. It
was mildly successful but was never given formal recognition. Her idea was
influenced by Anna Jarvis, who attempted to improve the sanitary conditions for
both the north and the south during the Civil War. She organized women from both
sides to work together on what she called Mother's Work Days.
Jarvis' daughter, also named Anna Jarvis, finally established Mother's Day in
her mother's honor. The second Sunday of May was recognized as a national
holiday in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson declared the first national
Mother's Day. In honor of Mrs. Anna Jarvis, the House of Representative adopted
a resolution that all officials of the federal government are to wear white
carnations (Mrs. Jarvis' favorite flower) on Mother's Day.