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Flowers | © Aleksandar Radavonovic / Unsplash
Flowers | © Aleksandar Radavonovic / Unsplash

Why Do We Celebrate Mother’s Day?

Picture of Stephanie Butler
Updated: 3 January 2017
Mothers and mother-figures are incomparable. They may be the first people we ever know when we enter the world, and they love and care for us as we grow up. Once a year, countries around the world celebrate Mother’s Day; a day dedicated to all mothers, so that we can show our appreciation. Rooted in different traditions and individuals who recognised the imperative of commemorating women, every country that celebrates Mother’s Day does so in varying and gratifying ways.


In the UK and Ireland, Mother’s Day can be confused with Mothering Sunday, as the two share the same date. In the 16th century, Mothering Sunday began as a Catholic and Protestant Christian holiday, where people would visit their ‘mother’ church, which was where they were baptised or grew up attending, for Laetare Sunday —  the fourth Sunday of Lent. This potentially was the only day in the year where families could all be together, as servants were only allowed away from their duties on Laetare Sunday. On the way to church, children would pick and make bouquets of flowers to give to their mothers, and this eventually evolved into a tradition of gift giving. Mothering Sunday became less practised through the early 20th century, until the 1950s where merchants noticed the possibility of a profitable commercial opportunity, fashioning the traditions in the UK today.



Mother’s Day traditions in the United States began with Anna Jarvis. She once overheard her mother, a social activist who formed clubs to promote peace and friendship during the American Civil War (1861-65), pray for a commemoration day to acknowledge the service mothers give to humanity. After her mother’s death, Jarvis spent the early years of the 20th century campaigning relentlessly, and eventually successfully, for Mother’s Day to be a recognised holiday honouring all mothers. Similarly to Australia and South Africa, Americans celebrate the special day annually on the second Sunday of May, and gifts usually consist of carnations, the official flower of the day.



Many other countries around the world also celebrate on the second Sunday of May — including France, New Zealand, Canada and India — with festivities, dinners, pampering and gifts. In Mexico, colourful Mother’s Day celebrations occur on May 10, where children handmake their presents and churches hold special masses. Egypt and several other Middle Eastern countries celebrate on March 20, the first day of spring, and on Aug. 12, Thailand holds prodigious festivities in honour of their Queen. In Russia, people used to celebrate on March 8, which is International Women’s Day, but now do so on the last Sunday of November, though still typically giving presents in March.



All traditions, however, do share characteristics and ultimately honour mothers and women who have brought peace and improvement in the past. Despite consumerism gradually overpowering authenticity, the day will forever serve as a reminder of what mothers do for us. Even though we are able to — and definitely should — spoil our mothers on any day throughout the year, the denoted day gives us no excuse to express our utmost gratitude.