How mothers’ day is celebrated around the world
When is Mother's Day?
But unlike Christmas, Mothers’ Day isn’t celebrated on a fixed date around the world. In the UK, it falls in March, and is officially known as Mothering Sunday – traditionally, the fourth Sunday of Lent, celebrated as a religious event in the 16th century, when the ‘mothering’ referred to the ‘mother’ church of the area. There would be a special service, and traveling there was known as ‘going a-mothering’. When it died out, the tradition of a day off became connected with mothers – and visiting one’s own.
In America, the day was started in May 1908 by Anna Jarvis, to honor the sacrifice of mothers – but was then backed by a Philadelphia department store, Wanamaker’s. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson officially recognized the second Sunday in May as Mothers’ Day. Ironically, soon afterwards, Jarvis disowned the event, as it had become a retail opportunity – she even launched an unsuccessful campaign to have it removed from the calendar. It’s certainly a day to splash the cash. According to the US National Restaurant Association, Mother's Day is the most popular day of the year for eating out, while the average spend on the day according to an NRF survey is a gasp-inducing $28.09 billion – in Britain in 2021 it was around £1.34 billion. That’s a lot of flowers.
Mother’s Day around the world
Mothers’ Day isn’t just a British or American idea, though. In Thailand, it’s currently celebrated in August, on the birthday of their Queen and in Ethiopia, it’s held every autumn during a feasting holiday called Antrosht, lasting several days. It sure beats a pack of bath salts.
In Spain, meanwhile, Mothers’ Day began as a religious festival, and is celebrated on the first Sunday in May. In France, their late-May mothers’ day was designated by Napoleon in 1806, to recognize ‘the mothers of large families’.
Norway celebrates in February, and Argentina has its Dia de la Madre in October. In India, the October festival of Durga Puja lasts ten days, and celebrates the Hindi Goddess known as ‘Divine Mother’.
What to get for Mother’s Day?
Nowadays there’s barely a store without its own Mothers’ Day offers, from lipsticks to flowers to crockery to ‘best mum ever’ wall plaques. (We can’t all be the best mum ever, but kids don’t care.)
In the UK and US, flowers, chocolates, perfume and home-made gifts are de rigueur, while in France, home of culture, children often write a poem for their mamas.
In Japan, the March holiday is a time to give carnations, as they are a symbol of ‘sweetness and endurance’, and children also draw pictures of their mamas.
In Mexico, families take mothers out for a meal and traditionally may even hire mariachi singers to serenade her. In Serbia, by contrast, children creep into their mom’s bedroom and… tie her up in bed. (Wait, what?) She has to ‘buy’ her way out by giving them sweets. Memo to Serbian children: This is not actually fun for your mother.
Mother’s day gifts she will actually want
Less mass-market wall plaques, more handmade cards and presents. Many mothers still have lumpy pottery tributes on the mantelpiece when their kids are fifty.
A little personal effort goes a very long way, whether it’s a bouquet the kids picked themselves, a picture they’ve drawn, or a batch of wobbly cupcakes.
If buying presents is the plan, you can’t go wrong with nice chocolates, a thoughtful piece of jewelry or the old classic: flowers, a handmade card and breakfast in bed.
But a chat with moms from the UK and US reveals that ‘peace and quiet’ is high on the agenda – and as JLo advised, love don’t cost a thing.
Mama of a five and one year old, and founder of The Little Black and White Book Project Ruth Bradford, says: “all I want for Mother’s Day is for the littlest to sleep.” She’d also love to see more emphasis on sustainable gifting.
Help with chores and no fighting is also high on the agenda. “I'd just love to not have to do the washing up...or break up a fight!’ says mom of three Amanda Overend, who owns children's bookstore Books & Pieces.
Full time mom Kelly Borowitz from New York, whose children are nine, 12 and 14 adds, “I’d like to sleep late and wake up to a magically clutter-free, quiet apartment.”
There’s Mother’s Day – and then there’s just wishful thinking.