Mother’s Day – It comes every year in America on the second Sunday of May, but its evolution was a long process, starting with ancient Greeks hosting lavish festivals in honor of mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele. The Greek influence spilled over into the rest of Europe, prompting other precursors to modern day celebrations, including what the British Empire called “Mothering Sunday.” This tribute occurred on the fourth Sunday of Lent, when the straying faithful would return to the church of their childhood for a special service. Children would present tokens of appreciation and handpicked flowers to their moms. Eventually, this practice died out.
Mothers Working for Peace
In the summer of 1865, Jarvis organized a Mothers’ Friendship Day at the courthouse in Pruntytown, Pennsylvania, to bring together soldiers and neighbors of all political beliefs. The event went better than anyone expected. No bloodshed. No tears. No drama, and eventually it became an annual event in Pennsylvania.
Ruined by Commercialism?
Anna Jarvis was the daughter of Ann Marie Jarvis. She took up the community service mantle stitched by her mother and promised to make her own incarnation of Mother’s Day a national holiday.
In May of 1908, her first Mother’s Day was financially backed by a Pennsylvania department store owner. Billed as a day to honor the sacrifices a mother makes for her children, it was a resounding success that drew thousands of celebrants. Buoyed from success, Jarvis went for the all-important calendar addition and began a letter writing campaign that involved every state. Persistence paid off, and President Woodrow Wilson deemed it an official national holiday – the second Sunday of each May – in 1914.
As is the American way, the greeting card suppliers, florists, and other merchants seized on an opportunity to make a buck. And Jarvis’ holiday became, in her eyes, a spectacle. In the 1920s she lashed out, threatening to end the day entirely:
“To have Mother’s Day the burdensome, wasteful, expensive gift day that Christmas and other special days have become, is not our pleasure. If the American people are not willing to protect Mother’s Day from the hordes of money schemers that would overwhelm it with their schemes, then we shall cease having a Mother’s Day—and we know how.”
Still, it was rumored that Jarvis only lived to be recognized for the holiday by always scribing “Founder of Mother’s Day” after her signature.
Mother’s Day American Style
Mother’s Day is a $25 billion one-day industry. About 122 million phone calls are made. On average, nearly $200 is forked over by each child to celebrate his or her mom. But let’s face it: Commercialization of this holiday has made sure we all take a moment to ponder the sacrifices our own mothers have made.