In praise of motherhood
Mother’s Day, or something like it, is observed throughout the world as a way to pay tribute to the women that gave birth to and raise us. Today, presenting flowers and cards to mothers is a near universal tradition.
The American tradition of giving carnations on Mother’s Day began in 1907 when activist Anna Jarvis delivered 500 white carnations to a church congregation in West Virginia where her deceased mother once taught Sunday school. Today, making mom breakfast or taking her to brunch may be prevalent, but red or pink carnations are still often given; while white carnations may be placed before altars or on graves for the deceased.
More than 80 countries – from Japan and Italy to Pakistan and Singapore – observe Mother’s Day on the second Sunday of May. However, just as other countries celebrate their mothers in different ways, many also honor them at entirely different times of the year.
In Great Britain and parts of Ireland, for example, it is observed on the forth Sunday of Lent by the Church of England as Mothering Sunday. The Thais celebrate it on the birthday of Queen Sirikit (Aug. 12). Egypt and many Middle Eastern countries honor mothers on the spring equinox (March 21), as it is considered to be the ideal time for celebrating those who give birth.
In France, people have observed this day on the last Sunday in May since 1945. Koreans pay tribute to mothers during Parents Day on May 8. And in Indonesia, Mother’s Day/Women’s Day is observed on Dec. 22, the anniversary of the First Indonesian Women’s Congress that took place in 1928.
The ways to honor mothers on these special days vary according to culture, climate and religion. Here are some of examples of one of the most heart-warming occasions in the world.
Ethiopians celebrate Antrosht in middle of fall (October or November) when the rainy season ends. They wait out the wet season then trek home for a large family celebration. Unlike some western mother’s days, the mother plays a key role in preparing the traditional meals for the festival. For the feast, children bring ingredients for a traditional hash recipe, which the mother prepares for the family.
After the meal a celebration takes place. The mothers and daughters ritually anoint themselves with butter and dance while the men sing songs in honor of family and heroes. This cycle of feasting and celebration lasts two or three days.
In some areas of France, Fête des Mères, or the holiday of mothers, is when local governments award the Medal of the French Family to those who have given birth to many children. Mothers with four or five children are awarded a bronze medal, those with six or seven children receive a silver medal, and eight or more offspring garner the gold.
Today a common gift is a cake shaped to resemble a bouquet of flowers, along with candy, flowers, cards and perfume. This tradition is still observed in many regions even after more modern version of Mother’s Day came along in 1945 called the National Day of Mothers.
Hindus in India celebrate Mother’s Day for 10 days in October during the Durga Puja festival. Durga is the name of a goddess believed to protect people from evil; she is also known as the universal Mother. People send cards to their mothers and invite them for a meal so that they can have a day of rest from the kitchen.
In Yugoslavia, Mothers’ Day is observed in December. Traditionally, children sneak into their mothers’ bedroom and tie them up in the bed. When the mothers wake up, they must promise to give the children gifts that they have stashed away for the occasion.
Swedes observe Mother’s Day on the last Sunday of May with a strong charitable focus. The Swedish Red Cross sells small plastic flowers leading up to the holiday. The proceeds are given to poor mothers with many children.
In Thailand, people wear blue to show respect for both the queen and their mothers on this special day. They decorate pictures of the queen with blue flags in front of their homes. Children present mothers with jasmine as gifts.
In Mexico, Dia de las Madres is celebrated May 10 with special events sponsored by schools, churches, cities and civic groups. Sons and daughters visit their mothers’ houses on the eve of this day (May 9). Celebrations start the following morning with a song sung to the mother, followed by a family breakfast or brunch. Typically, the mother will also receive flowers, chocolates or cards. In fact, more cards are sent on this day in Mexico than any other.
In Nepal, Matatirtha Aunsi is celebrated on the last Day of the month of Baishakh (usually April or May). On this day, married daughters return to their mothers’ houses to celebrate the day by offering eggs, fruits, sweets and gifts. Children bow at their mothers’ feet and offer delicious foods and new clothes in exchange for a blessing from her. A large carnival is also held in the village.
So, whatever time and in whatever way you celebrate Mother’s Day, get in to this universal sprit on May 10 this year. Happy Mother’s Day!