Modern Mother’s Day Origins
Mother’s Day is a holiday created to honor and appreciate mothers and mother figures. The origins of the modern holiday can be traced back to the efforts of US activist Anna Jarvis in the early 1900s. As an activist, Jarvis worked to improve the health and welfare of communities throughout the country. She was inspired by her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, who had organized a series of Mother’s Day Work Clubs in the mid-19th century to address public health issues.
After the death of her mother in 1905, Anna Jarvis conceived of Mother’s Day as a way to honor the sacrifices mothers make for their children. With the assistance of financial backing from a Philadelphia department store owner, John Wanamaker, Jarvis organized the first official Mother’s Day celebration on May 10th, 1908, in Grafton, West Virginia.
The event was a huge success, and Jarvis began a massive letter-writing campaign to newspapers and prominent politicians, promoting the national adoption of the holiday. Her efforts paid off in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure officially establishing Mother’s Day as a national holiday observed on the second Sunday in May.
Mother’s Day Traditions
Mother’s Day is one of the most widely-celebrated holidays in the US. According to the National Retail Federation, an estimated 84% of Americans plan to celebrate the holiday this year. In 2022, Mother’s Day spending reached a record high, with approximately $31.7 billion spent on celebrations.
A 2022 survey of those who celebrated the holiday found that the most popular gifts were greeting cards (purchased by 75% of respondents), flowers (72%), and special outings (57%). The Society of American Florists confirmed that it’s the busiest holiday of the year for florists, with nearly one-quarter of all floral purchases made for Mother’s Day.
It’s also a popular day for phone calls. According to data from telecommunications company AT&T, Mother’s Day is the busiest day of the year for US phone traffic. And recent years have seen sharp jumps in phone activity. Likely driven by fewer in-person gatherings amid the pandemic, AT&T reported a 37% increase in phone calls on Mother’s Day in 2020 compared to the previous year.
While the modern holiday is just over 100 years old, celebrations honoring mothers and mother goddesses have existed since ancient times. For example, the ancient kingdom of Phrygia – located in modern-day Turkey – held an annual festival for Cybele, the Great Mother of the Gods. The ancient Greeks hosted similar celebrations for the goddess Rhea, a practice that the Romans also adapted to their own pantheon.
Some places still continue to observe ancient festivals celebrating mother goddesses. In India, the festival of Durga-puja is held annually in honor of the goddess Durga. This Hindu festival is traditionally held for 10 days in the month of Ashvina, the seventh month of the Hindu calendar.
Today, many other countries around the world also celebrate their own versions of Mother’s Day, with the date and festivities varying according to local customs and traditions. For instance, in Thailand, the holiday is observed on August 12th, to mark the birthday of Queen Sirikit. Ceremonies and parades are held in celebration, and jasmine is the most popular holiday gift.
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