So who came up with the idea of honoring mothers nation-wide on the second Sunday in May?
Some historians claim that the predecessor of the Mother's Day holiday was the ancient spring festival dedicated to mother goddesses. In the ancient Greek empire the spring festival honored Rhea, wife of Cronus and mother of the gods and goddesses. In Rome the most significant Mother's Day-like festival was dedicated to the worship of Cybele, another mother goddess. Ceremonies in her honor began some 250 years before Christ was born. This Roman religious celebration, known as Hilaria, lasted for three days - from March 15 to 18!
ENGLAND'S MOTHERING SUNDAY
More like the modern celebration of Mother's Day is England's "Mothering Sunday", also called Mid-Lent Sunday, observed on the fourth Sunday in Lent. Some say the ceremonies in honor of Cybele were adopted by the early church to venerate the Mother of Christ, Mary. Others believe the Mother Church was substituted for mother goddess and custom began to dictate that a person visit the church of his/her baptism on this day. People attended the mother church of their parish, laden with offerings.
Also in England in the 1600's, young men and women who were apprentices or servants returned home on Mothering Sunday, bringing to their mothers small gifts like trinkets or a "mothering cake". Sometimes furmety was served - wheat grains boiled in sweet milk, sugared and spiced.
In northern England and in Scotland, the preferred refreshments were carlings - pancakes made of steeped pease fried in butter, with pepper and salt. In fact, in some locations this day was called Carling Sunday.
Another kind of mothering cake was the simnel cake, a very rich fruit cake. The Lenten fast dictated that the simnel cake had to keep until Easter. It was boiled in water, then baked, and was often finished with an almond icing. Sometimes the crust was of flour and water, colored with saffron.
INTEREST STARTS IN THE UNITED STATES
Anna M. Jarvis (1864-1948) is credited with originating our Mother's Day holiday. She never married and was extremely attached to her mother, Mrs. Anna Reese Jarvis. Mrs. Jarvis was a minister's daughter who for 20 years taught Sunday School in the Andrews Methodist Church of Grafton, West Virginia. Miss Jarvis graduated from the Female Seminary in Wheeling, West Virginia, and taught in Grafton before moving to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with the rest of her family.
Anna Reese Jarvis died in Philadelphia in May of 1905. Still unmarried and left alone with her blind sister Elsinore, Anna missed her mother greatly. Two years after her mother's death (1907) Anna Jarvis and her friends began a letter-writing campaign to gain the support of influential ministers, businessmen and congressmen in declaring a national Mother's Day holiday. She felt children often neglected to appreciate their mother enough while the mother was still alive. She hoped Mother's Day would increase respect for parents and strengthen family bonds.
THE FIRST MOTHER'S DAY
The first Mother's Day observance was a church service honoring Mrs. Anna Reese Jarvis, held at Anna Jarvis's request in Grafton, West Virginia, and in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 10, 1908.
Carnations, her mother's favorite flowers, were supplied at that first service by Miss Jarvis. White carnations were chosen because they represented the sweetness, purity and endurance of mother love. Red carnations, in time, became the symbol of a living mother. White ones now signify that one's mother has died.
OTHER MOTHER'S DAY OBSERVANCES
The first Mother's Day proclamation was issued by the governor of West Virginia in 1910. Oklahoma celebrated Mother's Day that year as well. By 1911 every state had its own observances. By then other areas celebrating Mother's Day included Mexico, Canada, China, Japan, South America and Africa. The Mother's Day International Association was incorporated on December 12, 1912, with the purpose of furthering meaningful observations of Mother's Day.
The House of Representatives in May, 1913, unanimously adopted a resolution requesting the President, his Cabinet, members of Congress, and all officials of the federal government to wear a white carnation on Mother's Day. Congress passed another Joint Resolution May 8, 1914, designating the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day. The U.S. flag is to be displayed on government buildings and at people's homes "as a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country." President Woodrow Wilson issued the first proclamation making Mother's Day an official national holiday.
SO NOW WHAT?
If your mother is still alive, take care to shower her with special attention this Mother's Day. Visit her. Phone her. Send her a card. Give her flowers. Get her gourmet chocolates. Buy her something you know she's been wanting. But don't wait until after her funeral to let her know how much you've appreciated her! Wear your red (or otherwise-colored) carnation proudly.