Whether it’s marked with breakfast in bed, a family brunch, or a card and a phone call, Mother’s Day is one of the most recognized and celebrated holidays in the nation. But are we, here in the United States, alone in honoring our moms each year on the second Sunday in May? Not at all. In fact, Mother’s Day traditions around the world are common, and just as unique as the cultures that started them.
In the United States, Mother’s Day just celebrated its unofficial 110th anniversary in 2018. It was in 1908 that Anna Jarvis, looking for a way to honor her late mother, was able to spark celebrations for all mothers in the town of Grafton, West Virginia, and in Jarvis’ hometown of Philadelphia. According to The Bump, she sent 500 white carnations to the church where her mother had taught Sunday School, to be worn by children in honor of their moms.
Jarvis spent the next few years running a campaign to get a recognized holiday for mothers, and in 1914 it was approved by Congress, according to TIME. Jarvis’ enthusiasm for the holiday had been inspired by her own mother's comment many years prior that she hoped “that someone, sometime, will found a memorial mother’s day commemorating her for the matchless service she renders to humanity in every field of life,” according to the Smithsonian. It’s thought that her vision for a mother’s day, according to TIME, would have been a day of service when women reached out to less fortunate mothers.
Regardless, the holiday has grown to be a day to celebrate moms for the special way they make a home and a life for their family. Here is a look at how cultures around the world honor the idea.
The holiday known as Mothering Sunday is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent in the U.K., and fell on March 31 in 2019. Now it is celebrated the same way as it is in the United States, traditionally with cards and flowers. But many years ago it was looked as a break from the rigors of Lent, and was referred to as Refreshment Sunday, according to Care.com, which added that it was a day given off work to celebrate the Virgin Mary, visit a "mother" church, and spend time with family.
When the country was part of the Soviet Union, mothers were honored on Women’s Day on March 8. Since the breakup of the USSR, Russia changed the date for Mother’s Day to the last Sunday in November, though there are still celebrations that take place in March, according to TIME. Nowadays it is celebrated much the same was as the United States with cards, gifts, and precious time spent together.
The country has more than 60 ethnic groups who all have unique ways of celebrating Mother’s Day, according to WeAllNepali.com, but the day is still traditionally a time to pay respect to mothers and give gifts and her favorite food. People also honor mothers who have passed on by going to a religious or holy site to perform rituals. Since Nepal follows a lunar calendar, the day is observed on a date called Baishak Krishna Ausi.
Mother’s Day is now celebrated on the second Sunday in May, according to Japan Today, but previously it was held on the birthday of Empress Koujun. It is called "Haha no Hi" and is a day to give gifts and flowers. Though flowers are the top choice for giving, according to Japan Today, mothers who were polled actually said they were most interested in gadgets for health and beauty.
Mother's Day (El Dia de la Madre) is a big deal in Mexico and is celebrated on May 10 each year. It is the busiest day of the year for restaurants, according to TIME. They start the celebration the night before with a visit to their mom or grandmother, according to the CBC, and on the actual holiday, there is a church service to attend. CBC also notes that serenading with a popular song called “Las Mañanitas” is also a must.
Many people in India celebrate a modern version of Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May, giving gifts and flowers to honor mom. But for Hindus in the country, there is also the celebration of the goddess Durga, the Divine Mother, which takes place over a 10-day festival in October, according to Care.com.
In the 1920s, according to The Connexion, the French government actually gave medals to mothers of large families for helping to rebuild the hard-hit population following World War I. Though that practice has gone by the wayside, the French did retain the tradition on honoring mothers on the last Sunday in May. According to Scholastic Parents, the typical gift now is a cake in the shape of a flower.
Mother’s Day is celebrated with gifts and flowers in South Africa on the second Sunday in May. There is a focus on presenting homemade cards and meals for not only mothers, but grandmothers, aunts, and other mother figures in someone’s life, according to The Daily Meal.
Also celebrated on the second Sunday in May, Peruvians honor mom with special meals, gifts, flowers, and cards, much like the United States, according to the Peru Telegraph. There is also an effort to remember mothers and special women who have died, however, and families customarily make a trip to a cemetery on the day. They clean and decorate the grace, then have a small celebration there, the Peru Telegraph reported, to honor the dead.
No matter what’s involved in the celebration, mothers are appreciated worldwide this Sunday and every day of the year. No borders, language, or customs can change all the sacrifice and love they give to people around the globe.