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6 Fascinating facts about Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is here, which means it’s time for children of all ages to think of ways to give thanks to these special women in our lives, or to honor the memory of those no longer with us. But before you get going on the restaurant reservations, here are six fun facts about the history of the holiday and its celebrations around the world.

The first official Mother’s Day celebrations were in 1908

The modern, American version of Mother’s Day came into existence largely through the efforts of Anna Jarvis, who sought to honor her own beloved mom’s passing in 1905. Her extensive letter-writing campaign to politicians and prominent businessmen fueled the first official Mother’s Day celebrations in West Virginia and Philadelphia in 1908, and within four years the occasion was being commemorated in some form in every state. On Saturday, May 9, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson made the proceedings official by proclaiming the following day, and the second Sunday of every May that followed, to be nationally observed as Mother’s Day.

Calls for a day to honor mothers predate the official holiday

Anna Jarvis was hardly the first to conceive of a day set aside for those who bear and raise children. Her own mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, oversaw “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” meant to improve local public health and sanitation, and spearheaded a “Mothers’ Friendship Day” that promoted peace and reconciliation after the Civil War. Famed writer and suffragist Julia Ward Howe also promoted a “Mother’s Peace Day” in the 1870s as a means for healing following the Civil War and Franco-Prussian War. And in 1904, former University of Notre Dame football coach and national president of the Fraternal Order of Eagles Frank Hering made a public pitch for maternal recognition; the Fraternal Order of Eagles now claims creditfor helping to found Mother's Day.

The Founder of Mother's Day Eventually Disowned the Holiday

It didn’t take long for Jarvis to channel her energy from launching Mother’s Day toward fighting the entities that sought to profit from the holiday. In the 1920s, she called for a boycott of florists who raised the prices of white carnations (a flower she had promoted at early Mother’s Day celebrations) every May, and made headlines for disrupting events held by organizations she felt were distorting her intentions for the day. Jarvis even criticized First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt the following decade for using Mother’s Day as part of fundraising efforts to combat high maternal and infant mortality rates. Shortly before her death in 1948, her inheritance spent on the numerous lawsuits waged in protection of her creation, Jarvis reportedly told a journalist that she was “sorry she had ever started Mother’s Day.”

A Mother’s Day stamp was partially designed by FDR

It didn’t take long for Jarvis to channel her energy from launching Mother’s Day toward fighting the entities that sought to profit from the holiday. In the 1920s, she called for a boycott of florists who raised the prices of white carnations (a flower she had promoted at early Mother’s Day celebrations) every May, and made headlines for disrupting events held by organizations she felt were distorting her intentions for the day. Jarvis even criticized First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt the following decade for using Mother’s Day as part of fundraising efforts to combat high maternal and infant mortality rates. Shortly before her death in 1948, her inheritance spent on the numerous lawsuits waged in protection of her creation, Jarvis reportedly told a journalist that she was “sorry she had ever started Mother’s Day.”

Mother’s Day is a booming business

Despite the best efforts of Jarvis, numerous businesses now look forward to the profits annually netted in the name of dear old mom. Some 113 million greeting cards are bought every year, while the Society of American Florists notes that Mother’s Day accounts for around 25% of all holiday sales. According to the National Retail Federation, consumers were expected to spend a record $31.7 billion to celebrate the day in 2022.

It is celebrated at different times around the world

Mother’s Day is said to be observed in some manner in more than 50 countries, although the dates and cultural customs differ. The Mexican Mother’s Day, held every May 10, kicks off with children waking up mamá by singing traditional songs like “Las Mañanitas.” In Thailand, kids kneel to pay respect to their moms on the designated date of August 12, in honor of the Queen Mother Sirikit. And in Ethiopia, the celebrations take the form of a three-day festival known as “Antrosht” at the end of the rainy season, which typically arrives around October.


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