The Origin of Mother's Day

05/01/2008 08:24

The second Sunday in May is set aside in the United States to celebrate mothers. Many churches have special services in which they honor Mothers.

Anna Jarvis, succeeded in introducing Mother's Day in the sense as we celebrate it today. Anna had spent many years looking after her ailing mother. When her mother died in Philadelphia on May 9, 1905, Anna missed her greatly. So did her sister Elsinore whom she looked after as well. Anna felt children often neglected to appreciate their mother enough while the mother was still alive. Now, she intended to start a Mother's Day, as an honoring of the mothers.

In 1907, two years after her mother's death, Anna Jarvis disclosed her intention to her friends who supported her cause wholeheartedly. So supported by her friends, Anna decided to dedicate her life to her mother's cause and to establish Mother's Day to "honor mothers, living and dead." She started the campaign to establish a national Mother's Day.

Ms. Jarvis and her supporters began to write to ministers, businessman, and politicians in their quest to establish a national Mother's Day. She wrote letters to newspaper editors, and church leaders and organized a committee called Mother's Day International Association to promote the new holiday.

She hoped Mother's Day would increase respect for parents and strengthen family bonds.

As a result of her efforts the first mother's day was observed on May 10, 1908, on the second anniversary of her mother's death by a church service honoring the late Mrs. Reese Jarvis, in the Andrews Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia, where she spent 20 years taking Sunday school classes. Grafton is the home to the International Mother's Day Shrine.

There is a custom of wearing a carnation on Mother's Day. The carnation is the floral symbol of Mother's Day and the holiday is associated with the colors red and white. Some people wear white carnations on this day to honor mothers who have died and red or pink for those who are living. The "founder" of Mother's Day, Anna Jarvis, urged people to wear carnations because carnations had been her own Mother's favorite flower.

Jarvis wanted Mother's Day to be close to Memorial Day so people would recognize mothers for the sacrifices they made for their families in the same way that service people had for their country.

The first official Mother's Day observance was in May 1907. It was very successful as by 1911 Mother's Day was celebrated in almost every state. At the general assembly in 1912, a delegate from Andrews Church introduced a resolution recognizing Jarvis as the founder of Mother's Day, and suggested that Mother's Day be observed on the second Sunday in May.

On May 9, 1914 President Woodrow Wilson, made the official announcement proclaiming Mother's Day as a national holiday that was to be held each year on the 2nd Sunday of May.

Nine years after the first official Mother's Day, commercialization of the U.S. holiday became so rampant that Anna Jarvis herself became a major opponent of what the holiday had become. While honored for her part in the growth of the holiday, Anna Jarvis' last years of her life were miserable.

As the observance of Mother's Day enjoyed increasing popularity, new dimensions came to be added to it. This made Anna Jarvis disillusioned with her own creation. Though the original spirit of honoring the mothers remained the same, what began as a religious service expanded quickly into a more secular observance leading to giving of flowers cards, and gifts. And Anna Jarvis was unable to cope with this changing mode of expression.

Mother's Day continues to this day to be one of the most commercially successful U.S. occasions. According to the National Restaurant Association, Mother's Day is now the most popular day of the year to dine out at a restaurant in the United States. The occasion is now celebrated with gifts, cards, hugs, thank you’s and other tokens of affection.

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