An Historical Perspective of Mothers Day

Dear Parents,

We are in the midst of Mother’s Day celebrations! As you will know by now, my background as an Historian lends me to look back in time to the origins of festivals in order to gain inspiration and meaning from them.

Celebrations of mothers and motherhood can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who held festivals in honour of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele, but the clearest modern precedent for Mother’s Day is the early Christian festival known as “Mothering Sunday.” Once a major tradition in the United Kingdom and parts of Europe, this celebration falls on the fourth Sunday in Lent and was originally seen as a time when the faithful would return to their “mother church”—the main church in the vicinity of their home—for a special service.

Over time the Mothering Sunday tradition shifted into a more secular holiday, and children would present their mother with flowers and other tokens of appreciation.

The official American Mother’s Day holiday arose in the 1900s as a result of the efforts of Anna Jarvis, daughter of Ann Reeves Jarvis. Following her mother’s 1905 death, Anna Jarvis conceived of Mother’s Day as a way of honouring the sacrifices mothers made for their children.

Following the success of her first Mother’s Day, Jarvis—who remained unmarried and childless her whole life—resolved to see her holiday added to the national calendar. Arguing that American holidays were biased toward male achievements, she started a massive letter writing campaign to newspapers and prominent politicians urging the adoption of a special day honouring motherhood.

At times, Mother’s Day has also been a date for launching political or feminist causes. In 1968 Coretta Scott King, wife of Martin Luther King Jr., used Mother’s Day to host a march in support of underprivileged women and children. In the 1970s women’s groups also used the holiday as a time to highlight the need for equal rights and access to childcare.

While Mother’s Day is celebrated worldwide, traditions vary from country to country. In Thailand, for example, Mother’s Day is always celebrated in August on the birthday of the current queen, Sirikit.

Another observance of Mother’s Day can be found in Ethiopia, where families gather to sing songs and eat a large feast as part of Antrosht, a multi-day celebration honouring motherhood.

In many Western countries like Australia, Mother’s Day continues to be celebrated by presenting mothers and other significant women with gifts and flowers, and it has become one of the biggest occasions for consumer spending. Families also celebrate by giving mothers a day off from activities like cooking or other household chores.

At Sydney Montessori School, we celebrate the hard work, love and dedication of our mothers by providing children with the opportunity to visit our Mother’s Day ‘shop’ to take the time to choose a special gift for their mother. We encourage our children to take some time to think about what their mother might like and to take the opportunity to give back to their mothers as a token of thanks for all that they do.

We also hold other events throughout the school, inviting our mothers to come in and enjoy the work of their children and to be given treats by them. It is an opportunity for us to teach children the importance of appreciation and respect for their parents.

To all our mothers, we hope you had a joyous Mother’s Day. We hope that you were showered with gifts and kindness and that you feel truly appreciated.

Have a lovely week ahead.

Raquel Charet