It was Mothers day in Australia yesterday, as it was in many parts of the world…that wonderful day where we celebrate Motherhood and the cherished mothers in our own lives, a day when husbands and kiddywinks make an all out effort to be extra loving and helpful and when Mums can almost get a day off…almost. It was my 17th Mothers day.
Have you ever thought about the history of Mothers day though? To be honest, I haven’t paid the history much attention and had just considered it to be another commercialised, retail driven day similar to Valentines Day. My own Mum encouraged me to take a look at the background to this popular event…I’m glad I did, I feel so much better knowing it’s not just about the cha-ching of money through tills.
Here’s what I found thanks to Google…
The earliest history of Mothers day goes back to the ancient Romans and Greeks. A celebration dedicated to their maternal Goddesses. Offerings, parades, games and masquerades…no doubt all rather over the top and gory… the celebrations were so notorious that it was soon banished from Rome. Thank Goodness!
The roots of the modern celebration as we know it, are traced back to early christian festivities from the 1600’s in England. On the fourth Sunday of Lent (the 40 day period leading up to Easter) after a church service in honour of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Christ, children were encouraged to bring flowers and gifts to pay tribute to their own mothers. It became a day when servants and those working away from home were given time off to visit their mothers and honour them with gifts, often in the form of fruit cake. This day known as Mothering sunday died off almost completely in the UK until its revival after World War II when American serviceman brought the custom to UK shores and commercial enterprises realised the money it could make.
In the US, The idea of an official Mother’s day celebration was first raised in 1872, by an American activist, writer and poet, Julia Ward Howe. She proposed that the 2nd of June be a dedication to Mother’s and peace against war. A Mother’s Peace day was observed in Boston for a number of years but was later replaced by the celebration we now know in May.
A childless, unmarried woman, named Anna Jarvis is recognised as the founder of our modern celebrations. She was taught by her own mother, an activist and social worker, that someday there needed to be an honouring of all mothers, living and dead and tribute made to all of them. After her mother died in 1905, Anna resolved to honour her beloved mother and change the attitude of neglect that was rife in the US. By 1911, after many years of lobbying for an official day celebrating Mothers, Mothers Day was celebrated in almost every state in the US and by 1914, the second sunday in May was officially declared the holiday we know as Mothers Day. Carnations became the flower symbolising a mothers pure love…they were Anna Jarvis’s mothers favourite flowers.
It was unfortunate to read that Anna Jarvis became disappointed with the rampant commercialisation of the holiday just nine years after its official declaration… just 9 years for the retail craziness to grab hold! Though it still retained the original spirit of honouring mothers, the religious services gave way to more secular card, flower and gift giving backed by a very keen retail market.
I admit to giving into the commercial side of this special day (and Fathers day)…but we also try hard to create memories beyond the bought gifts. Dudie organised a drive into the country for my Mama and I today…a surprise jaunt to destination unknown. It ended up being quite hilarious…
Our surprise was Toodyay, one of my most favourite historical towns a few hours drive from Perth, The ‘restaurant’ Dude booked ended up being a cafe, the size of the average kitchen cupboard and not the cafe he thought he was booking; resplendent with vased carnations on starched white tablecloths, a lady strumming on a guitar in the corner, a menu of home cooked comfort food delights….and the most frazzled owner I have ever seen in hospitality…She was in her mid sixties, a capable, country gal no less, BUT…. all her staff had called in sick! She had volunteers aged 80 plus, complete with walking sticks, helping in the kitchen and bussed in from the local old peoples home, a restaurant full of unbooked locals who wanted the regular roasts and pies and curries – and not the many high teas she had meticulously planned for the day.
We sat down and were warned there would be a wait…a long wait, there would be disorganisation and she was very, very stressed! Would we like the hot food or the high tea which no one was choosing and that there was an abundance of and she could bring us much quicker than any hot food? 5 obedient hands raised and she smiled a very grateful smile, promising to pile the cakes extra high. Cake it was, by the plate load for lunch! The kids could not believe their good luck. The cakes were abundant and yummy as promised, the tea hot and served in Royal Albert fine china, we were charged for 6 people without realising it and the guitar player ended up helping out with the waitressing. Oh, and the coffee machine broke and coffee had to be run in from the bakery next door. We giggled our way through a comedy of errors. A very memorable outing! Thank you Dude.
Commercialised or not, Mother’s day is such a special day…a day of honouring and I feel so blessed to be part of the honoured. It also makes for some lovely photos of the Aussie bush.