How Anna Jarvis’ campaign led to the official celebration of mums

Mother’s Day, the celebration of mums far and wide, will soon be upon us, with children set to present flowers, cards and chocolates to their maternal figures as a thank you for all they do.

While the occasion has become heavily commercialized in recent years and we now typically associate the day with buying gifts and making breakfast in bed for our mums, it has not always been linked to honoring motherhood.

From the history behind the calendar date to the traditions and its Americanisation, here is the story of Mother’s Day.

Why do we celebrate Mother’s Day?

Mothering Sunday is a celebration of mothers and the maternal bond, and offers us all a chance to show love, gratitude and appreciation.

Children commonly give flowers, presents, cards and acts of kindness to their mothers, as well as their other special maternal figures including grandmothers, stepmothers and mothers-in-law.

When is Mother’s Day in 2022?

This year, Mother’s Day, otherwise known as Mothering Sunday in the UK, falls on Sunday, March27.

The date changes every year, but always takes place on the fourth Sunday of Lent, exactly three weeks before Easter Sunday and usually in the second half of March or early April.

The history of ‘Mothering Sunday’

Celebrations of motherly figures date back to ancient periods, with the Greeks holding festivals of worship every spring to celebrate Rhea, the Mother of the Gods, and the Romans honoring their mother goddess, Cybele, every March as early as 250BC.

Yet, the early Christian date, known as Mothering Sunday, is the first clear recognition of the maternal bond, beginning as a religious occasion in the 16th century to give thanks to the Virgin Mary, or Mother Mary.

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The development of Christianity across Europe led to Mothering Sunday becoming an official calendar date, falling on the fourth Sunday of Lent.

Throughout the years during this period, people in England and Ireland would regularly visit their ‘daughter’ church, but on Mothering Sunday, people would visit their ‘mother’ church instead to bring offerings of thanks.

The fourth Sunday of Lent is also the date of another Christian celebration, known as Laetare Sunday, where people would return home to their families and mothers from church. Anyone who did this was said to have gone “a-mothering”.

Mothering Sunday later became a day when children and young people, working as domestic servants, were granted a day off to visit their mothers and families. Meetings often took place within the “mother” churches.

While the religious celebration of Mothering Sunday had a significant following for many centuries, by the early 1900s it began to decline, following the Americanization of Mother’s Day.

Anna Jarvis and the impact of the US campaign for “Mother’s Day”

While “Mothering Sunday” originates from the UK and Ireland, the history behind Mother’s Day is slightly different, originating from a US movement.

American social activist Anna Jarvis, from Grafton, West Virginia, was behind the creation of Mother’s Day, lobbying the government for an official day.

Her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, dedicated her life to motherhood, creating work clubs before the Civil War, which taught women how to care for their children. She also set up the Mother’s Friendship Day in 1868, uniting mothers with former Union and Confederate soldiers.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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