Mother’s Day (USA and Ireland, Australia and NZ)   2 comments


Next Sunday, the second Sunday in May, is Mother’s Day in the United States of America, Ireland, Australia or New Zealand, that is. In the United Kingdom, you’ve already had your celebration in mid-Lent, because ‘Mothering Sunday‘ was originally a ‘mother’ church celebration, with ‘motherhood’ in general, in the spotlight. In Hungary we celebrated it last Sunday, the first Sunday of the month associated with Mary, the mother of Jesus.  It was first celebrated as a national day in 1925 by the Hungarian Red Cross, becoming an official holiday three years later. ‘Mother’s Day’ as an American ‘invention’, was originally the idea of Julia Ward Howe, the writer and social reformer in 1872.

Julia Ward HoweJulia Ward Howe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, its establishment as an official day to honour individual mothers was the ‘brainchild’ of a Philadelphia daughter, Anna Jarvis (below), whose mother died on 9th May, 1906. She remembered her as providing strength and support as the family made their homes first in West Virginia and then Philadelphia, where her father was a minister of religion. As a girl Anna had helped her mother take care of her garden, filled mostly with white carnations.

English: Photo of the International Mothers Da...


On the first anniversary of her mother’s death, Anna asked the minister of her former church in West Virginia (above) to give a sermon in her mother’s memory. On the same Sunday, their minister in Philadelphia also honoured Mrs. Jarvis, and all mothers, with a special Mother’s Day Service. Anna also invited a friend to visit, and told her of her plan to get the American people to set aside a specific day to honour and remember their mothers.  She wrote to influential public figures and succeeded in persuading the governors of her town to proclaim the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. In 1910, the governor of West Virginia proclaimed the day as Mother’s Day, and state followed state in this. In Pennsylvania it became a public holiday and in Texas a special day for prisoners to go home. In 1913 the Senate and House of Representatives officially designated the day ‘to the memory of the best mother in the world – YOUR mother!’ In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson declared the first national Mother’s Day.

However, it soon became commercialised by florists, greeting card companies, confectioners and gift shop merchants. Anna Jarvis was disappointed and saddened by this. So, in the USA and elsewhere the Day is a largely secular celebration, though there may be special services in many churches, and card-making in Sunday schools. The American servicemen stationed in Britain in 1943-4 gave presents to their hostesses and ‘foster mothers’ to thank them for their hospitality, and this practice was retained after the War, thus merging the secular and church traditions together, though retaining the original Lenten date of ‘Mothering Sunday’.  However, the second Sunday in May is also the celebrated day in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland.

Nowadays, on Mother’s Day morning in the US, American children follow the tradition of serving their mothers with breakfast in bed. They will give their mothers gifts they have made themselves, as well as those bought in stores. Adults also give their mothers cards, gifts and flowers, often red carnations, the official symbol of Mother’s Day. If their mothers are deceased, white carnations may be placed on their graves. The day is the busiest day of the year for restaurants in the US, as moms are not expected to cook Sunday dinner!


Victor J Green, Festivals and Saints Days, Poole (Blandford Press), 1978, 1983

Office of English Language Programs, Celebrate! Holidays in the USA, Washington DC, 1993, 2007 (

Posted May 11, 2014 by TeamBritanniaHu in Uncategorized

2 responses to “Mother’s Day (USA and Ireland, Australia and NZ)

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  1. Thanks so much for linking my post!

  2. Reblogged this on hungarywolf.

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