6 Amazing Facts You Never Knew About Mother’s Day
Every second Sunday in May we take some time out to celebrate the woman who brought us into the world: Mom. Mother’s Day has become an institution in just about every country around the world. But how did this holiday come into existence and how do we honor our moms? Here are six amazing facts you never knew about Mother’s Day.
The idea for Mother’s Day has been around longer than you thought
Who invented Mother’s Day? That depends on who you ask. Ancient Greeks and Romans both had festivals celebrating the celestial mother (and by extension, all the other ones) and many other civilizations used spring (or autumn) festivals to also celebrate motherhood. Also, some nations chose to honor mothers for having lots of children, usually in times of war: both WWII Germany and Napoleonic France gave out medals to mothers.
In 1870, Julia Ward Howe (the woman who wrote the lyrics to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”) suggested a national day to honor mothers, celebrate peace, and protest war, but it didn’t catch on. Credit for the modern holiday of Mother’s Day goes to a woman named Anna Jarvis. She celebrated the first Mother’s Day in 1908, holding a memorial service to honor all mothers (including her mother who had passed away three years earlier) at Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in West Virginia. Jarvis continued to champion her cause, writing copious correspondence to editors and politicians across the country, and Mother’s Day became officially recognized as a national holiday in 1914.
The inventor of Mother’s Day became its loudest critic, and ended up institutionalized
Jarvis was less than thrilled with the almost instant commercialization of the holiday so she tried — and failed — to have it rescinded in 1943. Among Jarvis’s targets for criticism was none other than Hallmark Cards. “A maudlin, insincere printed card printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone else in the world,” Jarvis is reported as saying. “And candy! You take a box to Mother — and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment.”
A fighter and rabble rouser her entire life (she was once jailed for disturbing the peace at an American War Mothers rally), sadly in her 80s Jarvis ended up institutionalized at Marshall Square Sanitarium in Pennsylvania, where she remained until her death in 1948.
Mother’s Day never falls on Easter
In the U.K., Mother’s Day was originally Mothering Day, and was tied to the lunar calendar, celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent. In the U.S., Mother’s Day is determined by the solar calendar, being the second Sunday in May. In both cases they occur on a Sunday on which Easter cannot fall, so the two days will never be celebrated together.
People love their moms more than their dads or sweethearts
Or at least, more floral sales and restaurant reservations are made on Mother’s Day than on Father’s Day or even Valentine’s Day. One quarter of all yearly flower sales are sold for Mother’s Day. According to the National Restaurant Association, 80 million people eat at restaurants on Mother’s Day, versus 70 million on Valentine’s Day and 50 million on Father’s Day.
Pretty much the only consistent rule of food for Mother’s day is “plenty of it and she doesn’t cook it herself.” Shockingly enough, while brunch is very popular, it’s still not as popular as going out for dinner, so unless you make your reservations early, you may be stuck at home. If you’re hosting dinner at home take heart, there’s no “official” meal for the holiday so basically the best thing to do is make whatever she wants.
On top of restaurant sales, there’s the jewelry sales, greeting card sales, and a huge boost in pampering — hair styling appointments, spa days, nail salon visits. Mother’s Day is the third-biggest retail holiday of the year, with spending reaching $21 billion in the U.S. (Father’s Day trails behind with $12 billion — sorry, Dads).
Carnations are the official flower of Mother’s Day
Mother’s Day inventor Anna Jarvis chose her mother’s favorite flower, white carnations, as the official flower for the holiday. Explaining her choice, she once said, “Its whiteness is to symbolize the truth, purity, and broad charity of mother-love; its fragrance, her memory, and her prayers. The carnation does not drop its petals, but hugs them to her heart as it dies, and so, too, mothers hug their children to their hearts, their mother love never dying. When I selected the flower, I was remembering my mother’s bed of white pinks.”
From the U.S. to Europe, Asia and Australia, carnations are the symbol of the holiday. In some cultures they represent gentle strength; some Christian countries compare them to the tears of the Virgin Mary. Not only are carnations given to mothers, but children also wear them in her honor: red and pink ones if your mother is alive, and white carnations if she’s passed on.
In Australia, chrysanthemums are considered appropriate, since they’re called “mums.” In Thailand, jasmine is a popular floral gift. Carnations and roses are the two biggest sellers, but seriously, any kid knows that picking random flowers out of the yard and tying them together makes the best Mother’s Day arrangement of them all.
Phone calls peak on Mother’s Day
Did you remember to call your mom? Mother’s Day has the biggest phone call volume of any day in the year, bigger than any other holiday. Phone calls increase in almost every country in the world on Mother’s Day. In the U.S., phone calls increase by 11 percent on Mother’s Day. Call volume in South Africa goes up an astounding 91 percent on Mother’s Day!
In the era of texting and email, the one thing you have to do is call your mother on Mother’s Day if you’re not seeing her in person. Remember, even a short call is better than a long text, and if you can video call her, so much the better.
If you can’t call your mother because she has passed on, the day does not have to be a sad one for you. Remember, Mother’s Day was originally created by a woman who wanted to honor her mother who had passed away. See it as a chance to remember and celebrate your mother’s accomplishments and sacrifices. Do things she loved to do, see things she enjoyed to see, and pass on stories about her to your family and friends Even if she’s not there, you can break out the photo album and spend the day with Mom anyway. You know she’d love it.