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The Fascinating Story Of How We Came To Celebrate Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day, a celebration cherishing not only mothers but also motherhood, the nurturing bond and the inspiration that mothers are to everyone in society. This day is commemorated all around the globe but on various days. March and May are the most common months for this celebration, which complements other similar days of revering family members, like Father’s Day and Sibling’s Day.

Suggested read: A letter to my daughter on starting a new life

In the United States of America, this tradition of Mother’s Day originated in the early 19th century. It is, however, not associated with the other celebrations of mothers and maternity around the globe which ensued for over thousands of years. Some of these include the Greek cult to Cybele, Hilaria, the Roman festival, and the Christian Mothering Sunday (at first, a tribute to Mother Church and not motherhood). Mother’s Day, in some countries has erroneously become synonymous with some of these traditions.

mother and baby_New_Love_Times

Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

The incarnation of Mother’s Day in the U.S. was a creation of Anna Jarvis. She had to put in a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get this day recognized by the U.S. Congress. Jarvis’ efforts and struggles did not go to waste since Mother’s Day was declared a holiday in the States in 1914. Though Jarvis was successful in her pleas to the Congress in founding Mother’s Day, she soon became very aggrieved and annoyed by the commercialization of the holiday. Hallmark cards and other similar companies came up with Mother’s Day cards and other goodies, which Jarvis believed totally exploited and misinterpreted the idea of Mother’s Day. The stress of the holiday was on the emotion of love and not on profit. She went ahead and organized boycotts of the holiday and even warned that she would issue lawsuits against these companies. People should acknowledge and be grateful to their mothers and express their love and gratitude through hand-written letters, and not bought gifts or pre-made greeting cards, Jarvis argued. At a meeting organized but American War Mothers to sell carnations, Jarvis protested. Since carnations had already become linked with the holiday, Jarvis was detained for unsettling the peace.

Now isn’t that fascinating? I think we should totally dig deeper into the history of Mother’s Day! Scroll on!

Earliest history of Mother’s Day

The ancient annual spring festivals dedicated to the Greek maternal goddesses are the earliest known celebrations of Mother’s Day. Rhea, the wife of Cronus, was the mother of several divinities of Greek mythology and the festivity on this day was dedicated to her.

This festival was also commemorated by the ancient Romans. It was called Hilaria and celebrated in the honor of the mother goddess, Cybele, 250 years before the birth of Christ. The merriment was so notorious that the followers of Cybele were actually banished from Rome!

mother and child_New_Love_Times

Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

The history of Mother’s Day according to the early Christians, began on the fourth Sunday of Lent. People sang songs of praises for Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ, on this day. In the UK, the holiday was expanded to embrace all mothers and was hence, called Mothering Sunday.

In Islam, there does not exist any concept of Mother’s Day. Nonetheless, mothers are extremely valued and admired because, according to the Quran, heaven is said to exist under the mother’s feet.

In Hinduism, “Mata Tirtha Aunshi” is Mother’s Day. It means Mother’s Pilgrimage Fortnight. It is particularly popular in Nepal. It is observed in the month of Baisakh (April to May), on a new moon night. This celebration predates the US holiday by at least a couple of centuries.

In Buddhism, Ullambana, derived from Maudgalyayana and his mother’s story, is regarded as Mother’s Day.

The celebrations around the globe

Today, Mother’s Day is celebrated in almost 50 countries all over the world. Prayers in churches to honor mothers are quite a common way of observing this day. Some even gift their mothers with presents and cards (with a bouquet of Mommy’s favorite blossoms!) to express their gratitude and love. A cosy family dinner at home is also considered by many.

Since the day is a holiday, picnics are a preferred way of rejoicing on this day. Children dedicate poems to their mothers and try to ensure that they are the ones who are taken care of, for one day at least, before they again slip into the shoes of The Caretaker of the family.

mother playing with her kid_New_Love_Times

Image source: Pixabay, under Creative Commons License

As we looked at the brief history of Mother’s Day, we saw that it is connected to different religious, legendary, and historical events, and is venerated on different dates. Believe it or not, in some countries, it is an offence to not mark Mother’s Day!

Let’s have a look at the origins of Mother’s Day country-wise.


The second Sunday in May is celebrated as Mother’s Day in Australia. Gifts as a tradition on this day, was initiated by Janet Heyden of Sydney in 1924. One day during her visit to a home for women in Newington State, where Heyden met all the lonely and forgotten mothers, she carried gifts to cheer them up.

The chrysanthemum is traditionally given to all mothers on Mother’s Day in Australia. Funnily, it’s because it ends with mum! Even men wear the flower in their lapels to honor their mums!

Suggested read: Dear Mom, I love you…


Here too, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in May, but it isn’t a public or a bank holiday. It typically involves gift-giving to both mothers and grand moms, or any other loved female figure in the family. A tradition called Québécois is also followed by Québécois men, who present roses and other flowers to the ladies on this day.

mother and daughter_New_Love_Times

Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License


A carnation is the most popular Mother’s Day gift in China. A day to help the poor mothers in the rural areas, that’s the history of Mother’s Day in China. It began in 1997 and was explained through an article in the People’s Daily by a Chinese official, as a day to respect the elders and show filial piety towards mothers.

The Communist Party member, Li Hanqiu, however, advocated that Mother’s Day should be celebrated in memory of the mother of Mèng Zǐ, Meng Mu. A non-governmental organisation was formed by him, which he named Chinese Mother’s Festival Promotion Society. This was an attempt to swap the westernized gift of carnations with lilies, that in ancient times were sowed by Chinese mothers after their children left home.


In the midst of the alarm at low birth rate, in 1896 and 1904, attempts were made to have a day to celebrate the mothers of large families. Ten mothers who had delivered nine children each were honored with award in 1906, recognizing “High Maternal Merit.”

The American soldiers fighting in France during the First World War, popularized the American holiday created by Jarvis. The Union Franco-Américaine postal card was created because heaps of mail were sent back home from France by these soldiers on Mother’s Day!

The day was made official by the government in 1920.

mother and child_New_Love_Times

Image source: Pixabay, under Creative Commons License


Modern Mother’s Day celebration’s assimilation into the Indian tradition and culture was easy considering how much Indians already love their mothers! In India too, the second Sunday of May is commemorated as Mother’s Day. Though not a religious event, it is mainly celebrated in the urban centres of the country. The formal Mother’s Day is still something most people are unaware of.

United Kingdom

The fourth Sunday of Lent (In 2016, it was on the 6th of March), is celebrated in U.K. as Mothering Sunday. It is unrelated to the American holiday and originated in the 16th century, according to the historians. Most mothers, who worked as young apprentices, on this day were released by their masters to unite with their children for the weekend. Mothering Sunday, gradually, transformed into a convention of showering love and appreciation to one’s mother.

In years when the Easter Day falls in the month of March, Mothering Sunday can be as early as on the 22nd of March and latest on 4th April that is, when Easter falls in the last week of April.

mother and daughter_New_Love_Times

Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

United States

In the US, Mother’s Day is among the most commercially successful holidays! Though people thought that the holiday would wither over time, it did not. The main reason behind this was the continuous support and funding by the various florist businesses and other such commercial industries. Protestant holidays like Children’s Day or may be Temperance Sunday are not as popular as Mother’s Day, though they originated around the same time. Mother’s Day is also famous in the comic strips of the dailies in the States. The emotions that these Sunday comic strips express range from emotional to wry to even scathing!

Suggested read: To my mother, who taught me what being a REAL man means

Mother’s Day this year is on the 8th of May. How are you planning to celebrate it? Are you going the Jarvis way and writing your Mother a letter, pinning down everything that you love about her (now, that must be quite a list!), or are you gifting her something that she has been wanting for quite some time? How about spending the whole day with your mommy and doing all the things (almost!) that you both have been planning to do for quite a while?

Do let us know in the comments section below.

Here’s wishing all the mothers, the nurturers, the ones who love selflessly, a very Happy Mother’s Day from everyone at New Love Times. We love you and are proud of you! :)

Featured image source: Pixabay, under Creative Commons License

Article Name
History Of Mother's Day: How We Came To Celebrate It
Mother's Day is celebrated in over 50 countries in the world. But did you ever wonder about the history of Mother's Day, and how we came to celebrate it?
Riya Roy

Riya Roy

“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster.” This Isaac Asimov line, embraces my love for writing in the finest and most desperate way that it is and should be! I was tormented by the earnestness of the written word not very early in my journey. But once smitten, it has helped me devour life twice over; savoring the moment and indulging in its memories. As a flâneuse, I wander to understand the intricacies of human relationships. Realizing that, they are just different manifestations of the same feeling of love, has been my greatest learning. I seek to share its opulence through the words I type.