The Origin of Mother's Day

What does the word "mother" mean to you? Once a year in May, Americans recognize their favorite maternal figures - their biological moms, aunts, adopted moms, grandmoms, friends who are new moms, dog moms, and many other kinds of moms. Mothers should be celebrated every day, but Mother's Day is the perfect time to honor them. Keep learning to learn about the origins of this springtime holiday.

In the United States, Mother's Day as we know it was created in 1908 by Anna Jarvis, who wanted a way to honor her late mother, a passionate social activist and organizer of women's groups. Jarvis carried out her mother's wish to have a holiday that specifically honored moms. The first official Mother’s Day celebration took place at a Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia, and in 1914 President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure officially establishing the holiday.

Before Jarvis and her mom, other early Mother's Day advocates paved the way for the holiday to officially make the calendar. In 1870, Julia Ward Howe wrote the "Mother's Day Proclamation", which called for mothers to come together in an effort to promote world peace. She wanted "Mother's Peace Day" to be celebrated annually on June 2nd. A few years later, Juliet Calhoun Blakely launched a local Mother's Day in Michigan. Mary Towles Sasseen and Frank Hering both tried to organize a Mothers’ Day in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Even the Ancient Greeks and Romans had traditions to honor mothers and motherhood. Celebrated since the Middle Ages in the United Kingdom, Mothering Sunday was another precursor to the modern Mother's Day. On this day, the fourth Sunday in Lent, Christians would visit their "mother church" where they received the sacrament of baptism. But over time, it became a more secular holiday recognizing mothers. In the 1930s and 40s, Mothering Sunday merged with Jarvis' American Mother's Day.

Cultures around the world celebrate Mother's Day but sometimes at different times of the year and with different traditions. A few, including Australians and Italians, also celebrate on the second Sunday in May. In Thailand, Mother’s Day is celebrated in August on the birthday of Queen Sirikit. In Ethiopia, Mother's Day takes place in the fall, when families gather for a multi-day celebration. Mexicans take Mother's Day very seriously, and the day is filled with morning serenade of the mariachi song “Las Mananitas".

In the United States, Mother's Day is one of the biggest holidays for consumer spending, with moms everywhere getting spoiled by their loved ones with gifts like jewelry, flowers, chocolates, and more. If you've been looking for something special to give your favorite mother figure, we recommend you shop our Mother's Day gift selections here. Or, you can let mom choose her own gift by treating her to a gift card.