How is Mother’s day celebrated worldwide?
This is the second Mother’s Day I have spent in Argentina, and I am surprised at how widespread its popularity is. I have even seen shops promoting ‘mes de mama‘ (Mother’s month!). In many ways, it is similar to Mother’s Day in my native UK, but there are some differences.
How is Mother’s Day celebrated around the world? Has it become too commercialised? What are the roots of Mother’s Day? What does it mean for different cultures? Let’s see.
In the United Kingdom Mothering Sunday is celebrated exactly three Sundays before Easter. The name ‘Mothering Sunday‘ was originally not a reference to a person’s mother, but to their ‘Mother Church’. This is because of the 16th-century tradition of a person visiting the church where they were baptised. During the 1950s, possibly due to the growth of Mother’s Day in the United States and other countries, celebrating Mothering Sunday became fashionable again, however, the original Christian idea has been almost completely replaced by a celebration of motherhood.
Only Ireland and Nigeria also celebrate their versions of Mother’s Day on the same day as the UK.
In addition, as in many countries, it is now typical to give presents to your mother on Mothering Sunday. Those who can, will visit their mothers, bringing with them chocolates, flowers or other presents; and those who are far away are likely to call instead. Some children might bring their mother breakfast in bed!
Following the international trend, during the 1950s, France’s Mother’s Day (Fete des meres) became very commercialized as well. However, its origins are quite different to those of the UK and US. In the early 1900s some small towns thought that French women weren’t having enough children, and so a day to honour women with many children was created. By the 1920s it was popular nationwide and was made an official holiday in 1950, set as the last Sunday in May.
In France, as well as giving gifts, it is also popular for children to take over housework and other tasks that are generally done by their mum.
Similarly to in France, Germany also began a Mother’s Day tradition because of a falling birth rate. Although it began unofficially in the 1920s, it was popularised by the Nazis during the 1930s. From 1938, the Nazis began offering the Mother’s Cross; a medal given to mothers of at least four children. They also popularised the idea that the highest honour a mother could have was that her sons would die in battle.
Since the 1950s, Mother’s Day or muttertag in German, has resembled a more common, international version of the holiday.
The American woman Anna Jarvis is famous for having popularised the idea of Mother’s Day in the United States. From 1905 she dedicated herself to attempting to make the holiday a reality, and in 1914 she succeeded, as President Woodrow Wilson declared the second Sunday in May to be a national holiday to celebrate mothers. This is the most popular day in the world for celebrating Mother’s Day, with over a hundred countries worldwide using the second Sunday in May.
Argentina is alone in using the third Sunday of October. One of the major differences I have noted in the celebration of Mother’s Day in Argentina compared to other countries is the idea that it is the day of all mothers – not just your own. I saw many mothers receiving gifts from people who were not their children – something I would never see in my native England. I also saw many people saying feliz día (happy day) to anyone who was a mother. I thought this was a very nice touch.
Most countries in the Arab World celebrate Mother’s Day on the first day of Spring (this year, the 21st March). In Islam there is no reference to a Mother’s Day, however, it began in Egypt in the 1950s and slowly was adopted by other nations.
There are also a handful of (mostly ex-communist) countries in Eastern Europe and central Asia that use International Women’s Day, on the 8th March, as their Mother’s Day. Some countries join Mother’s Day with a Christian holiday related to the Virgin Mary. Armenia uses the Christian festival of the Annunciation as its day to celebrate motherhood, Costa Rica uses the celebration of the ascension of Mary into heaven and Panama uses the 8th December; the feast of the immaculate conception.
South Korea doesn’t have a day specific to mothers but celebrates Parent’s Day on the 8th May. It is particularly popular for children to offer carnations to their parents.
In Peru, Mother’s Day is taken very seriously – with children making a lot of effort to organize parties and treat their mothers. It is also common for people to visit their deceased mothers in cemeteries, bringing them the same gifts that they would have given them if they were still alive.
In Serbia, the three Sundays before Christmas are known as Children’s day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. An interesting tradition that takes place in some towns, is that on their corresponding day, either children, mothers or fathers are tied up by the rest of the family. When the children are tied up they will promise to behave, or pay a ransom of presents to their parents. On Mothers and Fathers days, the children tie them up, and release them after they have promised to give them a gift! Can you believe this?
Today, in much of the world a US-style Mother’s Day is popular. It is one of the biggest holidays for the sales of cards, chocolates and flowers. It has also been reported that the second Sunday in May is the most popular day for making international phone calls.
I feel extremely grateful to have the parents who helped me become the person I am today. On Mothers Day as a child, I would normally make my mother a card and spend the day with her. Now I live far away, I am more likely to organize a Skype session!
What is Mother’s Day like in your hometown? How do you feel about it? What do you do generally do on these days?
Let us know in the comments section below!
Podcast: Play in new window | Download