I love celebrating my mom. Although I can’t recall every mother’s day of my life, I know I showed some sort of appreciation to my mom each year. It’s just what we do on Mother’s Day, right? We don’t really question it. You’re considered somewhat of a heel if you don’t at least text your mom that day (and let’s face it, a text kind of makes you a heel anyway. Call your mother!).
But have you ever wondered how Mother’s Day came about? Do you know how the tradition started of wearing carnations to honor mothers on this special day? Maybe you don’t know that tradition at all. If you attend church on Mother’s Day, you’ve likely heard of it. And did you know that the woman responsible for getting Mother’s Day recognized as a national holiday never even had children of her own? Well I didn’t. So I did a little research…
We could go all the way back to ancient Greece to trace some sort of Mother’s Day celebration. And England had “Mothering Sunday” back in the 1600’s. But I’m going skip forward to the modern Mother’s Day celebration we know today here in the U.S. of A. The women who pioneered Mother’s Day as we know it actually used the influence of motherly love to promote peace and unity. Imagine that! Instead of making it all about themselves, they were trying to use the one role they were most respected for at the time to help make the world a better place. Aww…selfless love at its finest.
Love One Another Like You Love Thy Mother
To sum it up, the modern-day holiday in the U.S. started out as a day to promote peace and unity during a time of division in the Civil War era. Women were most known at the time for their nurturing roles as mothers, wives, caregivers. They were the foundation of the family.
Oh brother. Here we go again, making women seem like that’s all they amount to.
I’m sure there are some people thinking that. But that is NOT the case. These roles should not be minimized as unimportant or trivial. Women used their respected roles to influence their communities and beyond. They brought people together. Hear me out….
Mothers (most) would do anything to fight for the lives of their children, and even for other people’s children. Many mothers suffered the loss of sons and husbands during the Civil War. They were often left behind caring for malnourished, sick children on their own. Living conditions were poor and children were dying from poor sanitary conditions and lack of health care. What’s a mother to do? What would you do?
Prior to the Civil War, one such mother in West Virginia did her darndest to figure it out (Is that a word? Who knows, stay focused!). Ann Reeves Jarvis had lost 8 of her 12 children (all under the age of 7) due to such poor living conditions at the time. . I can’t imagine the horrors of burying all those babies. It was common back then and that breaks my heart. Mrs. Jarvis organized “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” to help mothers learn how to better care for their children and improve sanitary conditions. This was about all mothers, not just individual mothers. These organized groups also cared for others in need, including soldiers from both the Union and Confederate sides. They weren’t professionally trained nurses, they were mothers with a cause. They used their God-given abilities and nurtured humankind.
In 1968, after the Civil War, Mrs. Jarvis started “Mothers’ Friendship Days” in an effort to reconcile families and communities from both the Union and Confederate sides. From what I can gather, she appealed to others by convincing them they should try to make their mothers proud and honor them by being nice to each other through thoughtful acts of kindness. The saying, “Do it for your mother’s sake” comes to my mind here. Whatever it takes, right? Apparently the annual celebration was a success and continued for several years in that region.
Then in 1872, a peace activist named Julia Ward Howe, author of the Civil War song “Battle Hymn of the Republic”, wrote a passionate appeal to women called the “Mothers Day Proclamation. Interesting that she reached out to mothers, right? Once again, this was the universal role of women just as before. She called on women to promote peace and unity on a larger scale, beyond the borders of West Virginia. She wanted people (women mostly responded), to meet annually to rally for peace and unity nationwide. And many people did. In several cities, they gathered in meeting places on June 2nd and rallied their cause for peace and unity. Until 1913…
So, now let’s get back to Ann Reeves Jarvis. Her daughter, Anna Jarvis, fought tirelessly to honor her mother’s good deeds. She wanted a national day to honor mothers everywhere for their contributions. Her mother died in 1905. A few years later, Anna convinced her mom’s church in West Virginia to have a Mother’s Day ceremony on the anniversary of her mom’s death. It fell on the second Sunday in May. Anna had carnations sent for the ceremony since those had been her mother’s favorite flowers, hence the tradition of carnations on Mother’s Day.
After that, she petitioned to have a national Mother’s Day established to honor all mothers, not just her own. She had many supporters who also wrote letters to people in high places, letter after letter. Anna thought it was time for women to have a special day of recognition. Before it was ever official, many states celebrated it each May. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson declared it as a national holiday.
Too Much Commercialism
However, according to another national geographic article, Anna Jarvis ended up hating the holiday for its commercialism and how it was celebrated. She felt that she was the founder of the holiday and it should be based on her ideals.
To her, it was about celebrating the contributions of women such as her mother, women who gave selflessly to their communities and worked for unity, women who were the foundations of their communities and families. It was to honor each individual mother.
She spent all her money fighting the established holiday. She started many lawsuits and boycotts. She also got arrested once for protesting a Mother’s Day convention that was having a fund-raiser and selling carnations. It was said that Anna could’ve profited from Mother’s Day if she had wanted to. But she didn’t want a dime from something she came to loathe so much.
Mother’s Day is still one of the top grossing holidays for retail businesses. It is reportedly the top holiday for restaurants. It’s the third top ranking holiday for greeting card retailers.
So there you have it. Mother’s Day in a nutshell. I personally don’t think it matters if you spend $100 or $5 on your mother for this holiday. I feel that each of us has our own idea about what our mother likes. All mothers deserve to be spoiled and appreciated, and that has different meanings for everyone.
As for me, I plan on spending the day with my mom and my beautiful daughter. I’ve come up with some ideas for some personalized homemade gifts that I think would be suitable, and maybe my husband will grill some steaks for us. My mom doesn’t like going out and waiting in line for a rushed meal in a crowded place, and frankly, neither do I. She also isn’t impressed with how much money I spend on her gifts. So, I’m going to make it personal. If you need any simple DIY ideas, click here.
Happy Mother’s Day to all! At least call your mother! And for those mothers who are no longer with us, I’m wishing loving memories in their honor. Peace and love to all. xoxo
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