By Tresa Erickson
Every year as the second Sunday in May approaches, millions of people across the country turn their thoughts to Mom and find ways to let her know how much she means to them. Although it wasn’t always celebrated on the second Sunday in May, Mother’s Day has been around in some form since ancient times.
The ancient Greeks and Romans held a festival each spring honoring maternal goddesses like Rhea and Cybele. During these celebrations, participants would put on parades, play games and participate in masquerades.
Early Christians held their own festival in honor of the Virgin Mary. When the English took up the celebration, they expanded it to include all mothers and renamed it Mothering Sunday. On this day, individuals attended services for the Virgin Mary and then visited their own mothers, bringing them flowers, gifts and treats.
The popularity of Mothering Sunday had faded considerably by the start of the 19th century but remerged in the 1870s due to the efforts of activist and writer Julia Ward Howe. Howe thought there should be a day in honor of mothers in the United States. She introduced her idea in 1872, calling for the celebration to take place on June 2 and all mothers to take a stand against war. Howe had seen the devastation the loss of life in the Civil War had had on mothers everywhere. Although many embraced her idea of a day for peace, the celebration of Mother’s Day as we know it today did not come about until the early 20th century when Anna Jarvis introduced it.
As a child, Anna Jarvis had heard her mother pray for a day dedicated solely to mothers, living and deceased, and honoring their contributions. When her mother died in 1905, Jarvis recalled her mother’s wish and started campaigning for a national holiday for mothers everywhere. She wrote letters to many leaders in her community and across the country and spoke about the matter at many functions.
By 1911, Jarvis’ efforts had paid off, with nearly every state in the country celebrating the day. Just three years later on May 8, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a bill into law, establishing the second Sunday of every May Mother’s Day.
Today, Mother’s Day is celebrated in various nations around the world. Spouses and children all over take time out to honor the mothers in their lives, and for that, Anna Jarvis and her mother would be thankful.