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The Mystery of Mother’s Day

Mother's day

The Mystery of Mother’s Day

Every year in March, conveniently as the daffodils are in full bloom, children all over the world take the opportunity to shower their Mum with an extra portion of love.

Whilst these expressions of love vary across family, culture and tradition, over the years my offerings have included homemade cakes, breakfasts in bed, 24-hour bans from housework, heartfelt cards and of course daffodils! Whilst I love to spoil my Mum, taking genuine pleasure in doing so, I always feel slightly guilty that we limit this organised show of appreciation to one ‘pre-arranged’ day a year. However clichéd, I always find myself asking “Shouldn’t every day be Mother’s Day?”

It’s only right to acknowledge that for many people, Mother’s Day is a really difficult day that awakens sad memories. It strikes me as unusual that a globally recognised occasion creates such contrasting emotions from family to family. I can’t help but feel as if the meaning behind the celebration is a little ambiguous and its purpose rather vague. So this year I decided to clear up my confusion, hoping to find out exactly what the tradition is motivated by.

I had always assumed that Mothering Sunday and Mother’s Day were interchangeable – that it was simply a matter of preference over which you chose to use. However whilst researching I was curious to see that the two names for the celebration were used rather differently.

Mothering Sunday is in fact completely unrelated to Mother’s Day. During the 16th century a Christian practice existed which involved every child visiting their mother’s church on what was known as ‘Laetare Sunday’. It is from this tradition that Mothering Sunday supposedly evolved.

The first modern Mother’s Day, however, was celebrated in North America in 1908 when Anna Reeves Jarvis held a memorial for her mother, Ann Jarvis, who as a peace activist had cared for wounded soldiers on both sides during the American Civil War. Anna campaigned for a day that would honour each mother as “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world” and in 1914, Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation creating Mother’s Day as a national holiday.

Jarvis had envisaged children sending their mother’s personal letters of appreciation therefore she struggled with the commercialisation of the holiday, feeling that a purchased gift and pre-made card lacked sentiment.

I’ve decided, on reflection, that I share her disappointment that a holiday with such humble beginnings has become yet another opportunity for companies to make profit. This year, before buying that branded card and bouquet of flowers, I’m pausing to ask myself whether these are really the most sincere expression of my love. Maybe we all should?

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