May 11, 2008

Mother's Day

Today is the 100th Anniversary of the 'American' Mother's Day. While the holiday affectionately celebrating mothers has been celebrated since ancient times, and continues to be celebrated in nations around the world, our particular Mother's Day has a different origin.

The 'original' mother's day, is most likely linked to the ancient customs of mother worship in Greece. Mother worship involved the deification of the Earth Mother, Cybele (in Phrygian mythology) or Rhea (her Minoan counterpart.) The Romans also had another holiday, Matronalia, that was dedicated to their goddess Juno, but where one's own mother was also given a gift.

Like Gaia (perhaps our closest version of Mother Earth), Cybele, Rhea and Juno all embodied the fertile earth, the caverns and mountains, nature and all wild animals. And Spring, with all of its symbols of life, death and birth, became the time of the entity and deity of the 'Great Mother'. As with many ancient rites and traditions, the peoples of the British Isles transposed all of the more pagan deifications into more acceptable Christian forms.

It wasn't until the 1600's, that England celebrated a day called 'Mothering Sunday.' All servants would be given the day off, encouraged to return to their own homes and spend the day with their mothers. A special cake, called a 'mothering cake' was served.

In the United States, an official Mother's Day was first suggested in 1872 by social activist, Julia Ward Howe. As an abolitionist, pacifist, suffragette, and the author of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic", she wrote her now famous Mother's Day Proclamation as a reaction to the carnage of the American Civil War.

Her proclamation was tied to her belief that women had a responsibility to shape their societies at the political level. And she called upon them as women, as mothers, to make a difference in the political climate of the era, by rising up in support of peace.

Ana Jarvis, from Philadelphia, who never married and never had children, still had a fierce devotion to her own mother and began a national campaign to establish a national Mother's Day, beginning first in her own church, and then moving outward into others. She was inspired by her own mother saying "that it would be nice if someone created a memorial to mothers".

Three years after her mother died in 1905, she organized the first official mother's day service at a church where her mother had spent more than 20 years teaching Sunday school. By 1911 Mother's Day was celebrated in almost every state. President Woodrow Wilson, in 1914, made the official announcement proclaiming Mother's Day as a national holiday that was to be held each year on the 2nd Sunday of May.

Today, 100 years later, the former Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church is considered the official shrine to mothers around the world. So, today as the shrine celebrates this anniversary, each mother will be given a white carnation...Jarvis's pick of the 'official' Mother's Day flower...her mother's favorite.

Postnote of interest:
While Anna Jarvis while passionately devoted to the idea of celebrating an official Mother's Day, she was also just as passionately against its commercialization. She detested store bought cards and believed that gifts should be individualized. She felt the era of the 'true' mother was rapidly disappearing and was adamant about the day as a celebration of the 19th century ideal.

She became well known for scathing letters in which she not only berated those who bought their cards but for whom the holiday simply had become an opportunity to sell cards, candy and flowers.

Before she died in 1948, she actually protested a Mother's Day celebration in New York and was arrested for disturbing the peace! Like her own mother, Ann (a celebrated community activist) Anna Jarvis believed in her ideals and was willing to fight for them to the very end!


His Office, My Studio said...

Happy Mother's Day to you!!

Thank-you for the history of Mother's Day

atet said...

And a happy belated Mother's Day to you. Anna would have been proud of my Mother's day celebration -- a trip to a park to view lovely flowers with my husband and child. Not a single store bought gift in sight :0).

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