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The History of Mother's Day

December 31st, 2012 Seasonal

Chances are, you already know that Mother's Day falls on the second Sunday of May each year. It's the perfect opportunity to shower your mom with gifts and appreciation. It's frequently said that Mother's Day is little more than an invention by greeting card companies to sell their product en masse, but you might be surprised to learn that this may not be the case! Celebrating mothers is a time-old tradition that stretches back thousands of years. Curious to learn more? Here's some more information on where Mother's Day comes from.

1. Spiritual origins. The tradition of honoring mothers can be traced as far back as ancient Egypt. The goddess Isis was commonly regarded as the mother of the pharaohs, and each year Egyptians came together to commemorate her. The Festival of Isis was also celebrated by the Romans. Despite being an imported deity from another civilization, this proved to be a popular event in Rome, spanning three days filled with music, singing and dancing.

Other societies worshipped similar goddesses, such as Rhea of the Greeks and Cybele of Rome and Asia Minor. The Roman celebration of Cybele typically took place around the third or fourth week of March, perhaps doubling as a commemoration of the beginning of spring. There was a time when these festivals were strongly discouraged, as they had the tendency to grow pretty wild, but more conservative events honoring Cybele still took place throughout the years.

2. European celebrations. Later, these festivals served as the inspiration for similar European celebrations. Falling on the fourth Sunday of Lent, early Christians used the day to honor the church in which they were baptized - also known as the Mother Church. This tradition continued for hundreds of years, until the 1600s, when a clerical decree expanded the scope of the occasion to include actual mothers as well. Mothering Day held a lot of significance for the working class of England at the time - servants were allowed to travel back to their hometowns to spend some time with their families.

Mothering Day also allowed Christians to break Lent, which naturally led to joyous family feasts at which moms were honored by their children, presented with delicious cakes and beautiful flowers.

3. American Mother's Day. The first Mother's Day as we know it in North America took place sometime around 1870, when Julia Ward Howe - a songwriter who composed the Battle Hymn of the Republic - wrote a piece compelling mothers to protest the futility of the Civil War. In this song, she called for the establishment of an international Mother's Day to celebrate peace and brotherhood. Although Howe's version of the holiday persisted for some time, its practice eventually faded. However, the seed had been planted.

In 1908, a senator named Elmer Burkett proposed making Mother's Day a national event. It was in the ensuing years that flowers became very popular, leading to the accusations of commercialization that have persisted to this day. Mother's Day has continued to expand in size and has since been adopted by a number of different countries, including Argentina, France, India and Japan.

Honoring our mothers is only natural, given all they've done for us - it seems like people have had similar thoughts for thousands of years! Mother's Day was a long time in the making, so when it comes around this year, go ahead and celebrate with all you've got.