Did you know that mum’s day is celebrated in March, not May, in the United Kingdom? Mum’s Day (Mother’s Day) is exactly three weeks before Easter Sunday and usually falls in the second half of March or early April. This year (2016), Mum’s Day falls on Sunday, March 6th.
Mum’s day had its beginnings in the church. It was a custom for people to return to their mother church in the middle of Lent. Those who did so were referred to as “mothering”. Since then the day has been associated with mothers and family. It has become a family reunion where children working away from home (usually domestic helpers) get to have a time off to spend time with their mothers. Mum’s Day has become a celebration of mothers and the maternal bond. Traditionally children give flowers, gifts, and cards to their mothers and other maternal figures such as grandmothers, stepmothers and mothers-in-law. In the olden days, people would pick flowers along the road and leave these in the church or give them to their mothers.
The American version of Mums’ Day is on the second Sunday of May (this year 2016, it falls on May 8) as proclaimed by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914. This proclamation was the result of the successful campaign of Anna Jarvis (1864-1948), an American social activist from Philadelphia. After her mother’s death she swore to dedicate her life to lobbying for a day to honour mothers by writing them a letter on the value or importance of a mother. Unfortunately, enterprising businessmen turned the sentimental day into profit. They started commercialising the event by selling flowers, greeting cards, and gifts. Jarvis did not like the way people celebrates the day of honouring mothers. She described it is as “a poor excuse for the letter you are too lazy to write”.
Constance Smith of Coddington, Nottinghamshire was inspired by a 1913 newspaper report of Jarvis’ campaign. She followed suit by pushing Mum’s Day to be officially marked in England. She then founded the Mothering Sunday Movement and even wrote a booklet, “The Revival of Mothering Sunday in 1920”.
Jarvis was quite successful in her campaign as other countries started celebrating Mother’s Day. In May 1932, Mother’s Day was adopted in Japan. In France, ‘Maman’s’ special day is reserved for the last Sunday in the month of May. In Spain, Mother’s Day is celebrated on December 8th. This day marks the Spaniards’ tribute not only to their own mothers but also to the Virgin Mary. Mother’s Day for the Spaniards is a day of family gathering and religious celebrations across the country.
Most countries today celebrate Mother’s Day. The celebration happens mostly in May. Regardless of the time that Mother’s Day is celebrated, our mothers truly deserve our love and attention. One thing is certain; we must not forget to honour our mothers. A love letter written with heartfelt gratitude and honour for a mother’s love and sacrifice for her children is definitely more valuable than any gift bought from the store.