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Festivals: Mother's Day

Type: Reference material

Many countries around the world celebrate Mother's Day. (Not all countries celebrate Mother's Day on the same day.) It is a time when children honour their mothers with cards, gifts and flowers. It is a day when families spend time together, and mothers can have a day of rest, whilst being looked after by their husbands and children.

A form of Mother's Day was celebrated in Ancient Greece, honouring Rhea, the mother of the gods. In Britain, the annual celebration is known as Mothering Sunday. This first originated from the 1600s when many people worked away from home, living with their employers. They were encouraged to go home and visit their mothers on the fourth Sunday of Lent. On the way home, they would pick flowers to give to their mothers, or offer them a cake.

Towards the end of the 1800s in the USA, Julia Ward Howe, who wrote the 'Battle Hymn of the Republic', was horrified by the devastation caused by the American Civil War. She introduced the idea of a 'Mother's Day for Peace' to be celebrated on the 2nd June. Enthusiasm for this soon faded when Howe was no longer paying for the celebrations and she turned her attention to other efforts.

In the late 19th century and early 20th century, a woman called Anna Jarvis was trying to raise awareness of the poor health conditions in her community. She realized the day would be best supported by mothers, so she named the day 'Mothers Work Day'. Anna Jarvis died in 1905 and her daughter, also called Anna, began a campaign in memory of the life and work of her mother. She wrote letters to politicians and businessmen asking them to support a day dedicated to mothers (the day would be held on the anniversary of her mother's death). Eventually, in 1914, President Woodrow announced that the second Sunday in May would be dedicated to the "mothers of our country". Towards the end of Anna Jarvis' life, Mother's Day was celebrated in over 40 countries.

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