The History of Mother’s Day

One of my favorite things is to look up the origin story for celebrated holidays. Today, The History of Mother’s Day.

The first of the Mother’s Day celebrations can be traced back to Ancient Greece and festivals honoring Rhea, the mother of the Gods (most notably, Zeus). As part of the assimilation of Christianity, the holiday was then rebranded as a day to honor Mary. It eventually morphed into a day to honor all of the mothers in England.

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The Mother’s Day movement was largely forgotten in the United States until 1870 when Julia Ward Howe wrote a declaration for women to rise up, to oppose war and violence, and to stand in peace.

Arise, then, women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or tears!
Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have taught them of charity, mercy and patience. We women of one country will be too tender of those of another to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”
From the bosom of the devastated earth, a voice goes up with our own. It says, “Disarm, Disarm!”

Read the rest of her Declaration

Sadly, Julia never got the day of peace she sought, but her work influenced another woman–Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis, whose message influenced her own daughter, Anna Jarvis, who campaigned—and won—a day to recognize all of the efforts of mothers to their children.

Margaret Mead—your words, though now a cliche’ are ever so true: “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

My first Mother’s Day present was a cheap-o snow cone maker. Why? Because my first paying-taxes-job was working weekends (illegally—I was only 15) at the flea market making snow cones. That gift meant more to me than any diamond would have, because it was just so…appropriate.

This year we planted blueberries—a family favorite—to honor Mother’s Day. We all went to the Farmer’s Market and picked locally grown, pesticide-free plants. We planted them in organically-prepared soil, in a bed built by our own hands. We watered them with water collected in our rainbarrel and fed them with a tea made from our own compost.

I taught my oldest son what a root-bound plant was—and he actually kept me from buying one when I wasn’t paying attention to my own lesson a mere 10 minutes later.

I use this as a day to remind myself that I have important life lessons to teach my children. Lessons delivered to them more through actions than words. I use this as a day to remind myself that my children are teaching me lessons that I have forgotten during my tour as a cynical adult; lessons of innocence, of unconditional love, of wonder, of discovery.

From now on I will also use this day to honor Julia and her intent for this day; to celebrate our similarities instead of our differences. To say to mothers across the world that their children are just as important as my children.

Happy Mother’s Day to everyone; may your day be full of peace and joy. And maybe a delicious Denver omelet with a side of strawberries with fresh whipped cream made by someone else.

2 thoughts on “The History of Mother’s Day

  1. Pingback: Mother's Day 2013 | Scattermom

  2. Pingback: Scattermom Blog Archive the History of Mother’s Day | My Goose Is Cooked

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