Out of the Woods: A holiday only a mother (sometimes) can love
Published 5:32 am, Sunday, May 10, 2015
This Sunday, as most of us have been made aware by glaring advertisements on TV, in the commercial and social media, marks the annual celebration of Mother's Day, a day selected by President Woodrow Wilson on May 8, 1915 -- exactly 100 years ago today -- according to Internet sources.
It has been reduced in stature from a one-time, semisacred day of prayer and peace in England dedicated to the service of mothers to the nation, to "the Hallmark Holiday" because it has been adopted by Hallmark Cards.
According to several online sources, Mother's Day and Mothering Sunday are commonly mistaken for the same celebration -- the same Mother's Day is a celebration of mothers and motherhood traditionally celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent, as a Christian holiday throughout the UK and Europe.
Anna Jarvis is the founder of Mother's Day in the U.S., but the origin of Mother's Day in the United States is not actually related to the Christian Mothering Sunday celebration.
The UK celebration Mothering Sunday is a Christian holiday that originally began as a celebration of the mother church, not motherhood, during the 16th century. People returned to their so-called "mother church" -- the main church or cathedral in their area -- for a service to be held on Laetare Sunday. Those who attended were said to have gone "a-mothering," although it is unclear as to whether this influenced the term "Mothering Sunday." Years later, the celebration became a day when household servants were given a day off to visit their families. Children would pick wild flowers to present to their mothers, which became the modern-day tradition of giving presents. Generally, servants were not given free days on other occasions.
"Although Mother's Day and Mothering Sunday have morphed into one celebration in the UK, they come from different origins. Mother's Day, unrelated to the Christian celebration, began in the early 20th Century in the United States. It is celebrated on different days across the world, but is generally observed between April and May in the northern hemisphere," according to www.history.com.
The modern holiday of Mother's Day was first celebrated in 1908, when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother in Grafton, W.Va. Her mother, Ann Jarvis, had previously founded Mother's Day Work Clubs in five cities across the U.S. to improve sanitary and health conditions for working men and women. After Ann died, her daughter held a memorial for her and campaigned to make Mother's Day a recognized holiday.
"By the 1920s, Anna had grown tired of the commercialization of the holiday, in particular, the use of printed greeting cards. She incorporated herself as the Mother's Day International Association, trade-marked the phrase `Mother's Day' -- and was arrested for disturbing the peace on more than one occasion. Anna and her sister, Ellsinore, spent their inheritance campaigning against the holiday and what it had become and both died in poverty," according to www.history.com.
Inspired by Anna's effort in the U.S., Constance Penswick-Smith created the Mothering Sunday Movement in 1914. "By the 1920s, the custom of celebrating Mothering Sunday had begun to dwindle in continental Europe. Its revival was mainly down to the influence of American and Canadian soldiers serving abroad in World War II, as Mothering Sunday was merged with new traditions from the U.S.," the website reports.
In addition to the United States, Mother's Day is celebrated on different days in many parts of the world, and most commonly in spring. However, dates varies from country to country. Overall, it is considered an "international" holiday and is usually accompanied with national cultural trappings of the nation where it is held.
In Greece, the celebration falls on Feb. 2, yet it occurs in October in Argentina. In some nations, the date was changed to a date significant to the majority religion, such as Virgin Mary Day in some Catholic countries.
Other states choose a date with historical meaning. Bolivia's Mother's Day, for example, marks the date of a battle in which women participated.
In former Communist countries, the more socialist International Women's Day is celebrated instead of Mother's Day.
Woody Klein is a Westport writer. His column, "Out of the Woods," appears every other Friday in the Westport News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.