Mother’s Day Around the World

photo by tanakawho

Long before Mother’s Day became a holiday of bouquets and buffets, cultures all over the world celebrated female figures. Ancient festivals lauded maternal and feminine deities such as the Greek Cybele or the Roman Hilaria, or later, the Virgin Mary on Christian Mother Sunday.

The holiday’s modern reincarnation was introduced by Anna Jarvis, notable feminist, who began a campaign in 1907 to make Mother’s Day a federally recognized holiday in America—leading to its implementation in 1914. Today, it is celebrated all over the world, albeit within each culture’s customs, from Indonesia to Bangladesh to Bolivia.

Many countries associate this holiday with gift-giving and reverence of mothers or goddesses. Religion often plays a role in how the day is celebrated. In certain Orthodox regions, families take a day to revere the Virgin Mary. A similar, but unrelated holiday, is the Hindu Mata Tirtha Aunshi, which is celebrated in the month of Baisakh (April/May).

Dates differ based on each country’s calendar and history. Iran celebrates on 20 Jumada al-thani, the birthday of Muhammad’s daughter Fatimah. Israel celebrates on Shevat 30, the anniversary of the death of Henrietta Szold, whose organization Youth Aliyah rescued countless Jewish children from Nazi Germany. Now it is known as Family Day, or Hamishpacha.

In Bolivia, Mother’s Day falls on the anniversary of the Battle of Coronilla (1812), where women revolutionaries fought and died for independence from Spain. Egyptian journalist Mustafa Amin is often credited with the introduction of Mother’s Day to the Middle East, falling on March 21.

France has an interested history with the holiday. During WWI, encouraged by their new holiday, American soldiers in France sent so much mail on Mother’s Day that the Union franco-americaine created a postal card for this very purpose. Starting around 1920, the French government awarded the Médaille de la Famille française to mothers of large families and, by 1950, the Fête de Mères became an official holiday in France on the last Sunday of May.

We moms at WIT sure love the thought of being doted on! Are you celebrating Mother’s Day or some incarnation of the holiday? Share your thoughts!

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