A Short History of Mother’s Day

“And her children arise up and call her blessed.”

Tomorrow we honor our moms, a tradition that goes all the way back to ancient times when the early Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans held celebrations honoring female deities. The Romans, for example, honored Cybele, the “Great Mother”.  Over the centuries, these early festivals evolved into celebrations of a more personal nature, when individuals sought to honor their own mothers.

By the 1600’s, the English observed “Mothering Day”, a Lenten holiday in which house servants and others were allowed to leave the grand estates and shops where they worked and travel home to spend the day with their mothers. At these family gatherings, mothers were feted with feasts, cakes and flowers, much as we do today. But this all came to a halt when the “no-frills” Puritans arrived in America and proscribed any sort of frivolity.

In the aftermath of  the Civil War, a women’s group in West Virginia began “Mothers’ Friendship Day” as an attempt to heal the divide between women of the North and South. In 1870, Julia Ward Howe, best known as the author of  The Battle Hymn of the Republic, petitioned for a proclamation to honor mothers but it wasn’t until May 10, 1908 that the first official Mother’s Day observance was held at Andrews Methodist Church in Grafton,  WV, and a church in Philadelphia, PA. Now celebrated in the US on the second Sunday in May, the tradition is observed in many countries around the world.

This summer my own mother will celebrate her 81st birthday. I’m thankful for the lessons she taught me about keeping promises, working hard, and loving others. Thanks, Mom. I love you. Happy Mother’s Day.