How It All Began
In the United Kingdom, the origins of the celebration date back to the middle of the 16th century. Christians held a celebration on the fourth Sunday of Lent (which, this year, means that it is coming up this weekend!) After a period in which the celebration faded a little in popularity, Constance Smith tried to bring this Anglican tradition back and it wasn’t long before British retailers realised they could capitalise on this celebration. As a result, the celebration here in the UK has become much more commercialised and has much less of a religious element.
The Evolution of Mothers’ Day in America
Jarvis’ daughter Anna sought to continue her mother’s work, seeing “Mothers’ Day” as a way of remembering the sacrifices a mother makes for their children. She envisaged people wearing white carnations and visiting their mothers or taking part in local church services. But it wasn’t long before florists began to cash in on the idea of flowers to mark the occasion and by 1920 she had become highly critical of the way in which the celebration had become so commercialised, encouraging people to refrain from purchasing sweets, gifts and cards from anyone seeking to make a profit from the celebrations.
Furthermore, she was engaged in lawsuits against companies that used the term “Mothers’ Day.” Jarvis died in 1948, by which time much of her wealth had been swallowed up by legal fees challenging the use of the name and she sought to distance herself completely from the celebration, even making attempts to have it removed from the American calendar altogether.
For the suffragette Julia Howe, Mothers’ Day was a chance to inspire the promotion of world peace, with the celebration of “Mothers’ Peace Day” on June 2nd.
Mothers’ Day Around the World
Mothers' Day in German Speaking Countries
Muttertag was declared an official holiday in Germany in 1933, taking place on the second Sunday in May and was particularly significant under the Hitler regime. Medals were awarded during this time, called the Mutterkreuz, in bronze, silver or gold, the latter being awarded if you had eight or more children for the Vaterland. Since the end of World War II, the celebration has taken on a much more commercialised form, similar to that in the United States or here in the U.K., with cards, flowers and presents. In Germany, if Muttertag should happen to fall on Pfingstsonntag then it is brought forward to the first Sunday in May.
Mothers' Day in France
Napoléon is credited with starting Mothers' Day in an official capacity in France in 1950. Care is taken to ensure that Mum remains the centre of attention all day. She may receive cards, flowers, gifts or poems, or be given the opportunity to enjoy time out to relax on this, her very special day. It is traditional to treat her to a cake made to look like a bouquet of flowers. French mothers will find themselves treated to a box of their favourite chocolates, some of their favourite cheese or even their favourite perfume.