Mother’s Day can be traced back to the Ancient Greeks and Romans who held festivals in honor of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele.
The ancient Greeks held an annual spring festival dedicated to honor the maternal goddesses Rhea. The wife of Cronus, Rhea was the mother of many deities of Greek mythology.
Ancient Romans also celebrated a spring festival, called Hilaria dedicated to the mother goddess Cybele. Ceremonies in honor of Cybele began some 250 years before Christ was born. The celebration was held on the Ides of March by making offerings in the temple of Cybele, this festival lasted for about three days.
Mothering Sunday, from the UK is the most recent celebration, dating back to the 1600’s. This Christian festival was once a major tradition in the United Kingdom and parts of Europe, it fell on the fourth Sunday in Lent, it was a time when people would return to their “mother church”. (Much like homecoming that is celebrated in churches today when people return to their home church for a special service and a meal afterwards).
Mothering Sunday eventually took a more secular route when children would present their mothers with gifts and flowers to show their appreciation. Mothering Sunday eventually faded out but regained new life when it merged into the American born Mother’s Day in the 30’s and 40’s. In World War II servicemen would purchase trinkets to send back home to their Mother’s or wives.
In 1872 Julia Ward Howe (writer of the Battle Hymn of the Republic) suggested in her “Mother’s Peace Day Proclamation” that Mother’s Peace Day be celebrated on the second Sunday in June. This was to be a day that Mother’s would stand united against war and be dedicated to peace.
Around the same time Ann Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia began holding meetings taught local women how to properly care for their children. These meetings became a unifying force in a region of the country still divided over the Civil War. In 1868 Jarvis organized “Mothers’ Friendship Day,” where mothers gathered with former Union and Confederate soldiers to promote reconciliation.
The efforts of Ann Reeves Jarvis’ daughter Anna Jarvis gave birth to the official Mother’s Day holiday in the 1900s. After her mother’s 1905 death, Anna Jarvis wanted to honor her mother’s good faith efforts as well as all good Mother’s sacrifices. She used financial backing from a Philadelphia store owner named John Wanamaker and proceeded to organize the first Mother’s Day celebration at a church in Grafton, West Virginia. Seeing the success of the first Mother’s Day celebration she set out on a long journey to make the celebration a National Holiday.
By 1912 many States and churches celebrated Mother’s Day. Jarvis finally succeeded in her quest when President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure officially establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day in 1914.
Anna Jarvis had envisioned Mother’s Day as a personal day for families where they could gather together and spend time making precious memories. It wasn’t long after Mother’s Day became a national holiday before florists, card companies and other merchants capitalized on its popularity. This infuriated Anna Jarvis, she spent all her personal assets fighting to have Mother’s Day removed as a National Holiday because it had turned into something entirely different from her vision. By the time of her death in 1948, Anna Jarvis was penniless and confined to a sanitarium.
From Goddesses to penniless, motherless widows, Mother’s day has seen great extremes. Mother’s have fought and struggled throughout the years to make this world a better place for their children to grow up in; they are ever persevering the face of adversity, sacrificing in times of want and above all loving in all circumstances.
Celebrate the Mother you love and those who have loved you this Mother’s Day.