Today, Sunday, May 10, most Americans will celebrate Mother’s Day. MD is celebrated all over the world in some form. Different countries have their own way of celebrating the day and even celebrate on different dates. Some countries have replicated the US traditions – hallmark [or email (tacky)] card, flowers, chocolates, and family gatherings; others have incorporated it into other holidays honoring women or mothers; and in still others, a combination of the two has evolved.
Restauranteurs claim that MD is their busiest day of the year. Obviously, this year’s shelter-in-place guidelines will deal a serious blow to the restaurant industry, although ABC News reports that some restaurants will be offering promotions and discounts in an attempt to attract business, in most cases take-out. In a normal year, mothers would enjoy a well-deserved day off from cooking. And why not? (On the other hand, on Father’s Day the restaurants are relatively empty as many fathers are put to work barbecuing.
In the US MD was first celebrated in 1908 when a lady named Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother. Ms. Jarvis had been campaigning for the country to recognize a day to honor mothers since 1905 when her mother had passed away. In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson signed an official proclamation establishing the second Sunday in May as MD. It was to be a day to honor mothers and the concept of motherhood and their contributions to society.
Eventually, Ms. Jarvis became disillusioned with the commercialization of the holiday. By the 1920’s the greeting card, retail, candy and flower industries were marketing their products aggressively to take advantage of the holiday. Jarvis strongly advocated that people should demonstrate their love and respect for their mothers through personalized, handwritten letters instead. Being a person of action she organized protests and threatened boycotts of these industries. At one point, she was arrested for disturbing the peace at a candy manufacturers’ convention.
Despite her efforts, commercialization of the day has continued to grow. Americans, in particular, tend to demonstrate their love in tangible, material ways through the giving of gifts. Today, MD is one of the biggest days for the sale of flowers, candy and greeting cards. Normally, the amount of the average MD gift and the total spent increases every year. According to Wikipedia last year Americans spent an average of just under $200 on their mothers for the holiday, about the same as the prior year. The overall total was slightly in excess of $20 billion. It is difficult to estimate this year’s totals because of the effects of the CV, notably the shelter-in-place guidelines and 20+ million unemployed. But, we do love our mothers, so many families will likely try to make it as special an occasion as possible. We shall see. In addition, MD is the third-biggest day for church attendance behind Christmas Eve and Easter.
As I stated, MD is celebrated in many countries in different ways and at different dates. For example:
1. The most common date is the second Sunday in May, which is May 10 this year. Besides the US, some of the countries that celebrate it on this date are Canada, Italy the Peoples Republic of China and Turkey.
2. Some countries, such as the UK, Ireland and Nigeria, celebrate it on the fourth Sunday of Lent. The UK incorporated it into a previously existing holiday called “Mothering Sunday.” ”Mothering Sunday” dates from the 16th Century.
3. Many Arab countries, such as Egypt, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia celebrate it on the vernal equinox (March 19 in 2020).
4. Russia used to celebrate MD on March 8 in conjunction with International Women’s Day, but in 1998 the date was changed, by law, to the last Sunday in November.
5. Bolivia celebrates it on May 27, which is the date of an historically significant battle in which women played a key role.
6. Since 1950 France has celebrated MD on the fourth Sunday in May, except when the date conflicts with Pentecost in which case it is delayed to the next Sunday.
7. Hindus celebrate MD on the new moon day in the month of Baisakh (April/May).
Some of you may have noted that I spelled MD as Mother’s Day. This was not an error. The official holiday is spelled in the singular tense. According to Ms. Jarvis the day is intended to honor “the best mother who ever lived, yours.”
MD is one of the few truly internationally-recognized holidays. One of the charming features of the day is the variety of ways and dates on which it is celebrated. This is derived from the differences in customs and cultures around the world.
One thing is certain now and will remain so prospectively: on this day the mother/wife is truly in charge. Men, this year, with all the problems caused by the CV, it is particularly important to honor the special woman in your life. As you plan this year’s MD, remember the adage “happy wife, happy life.”
Finally, men, all together now, let’s repeat the two-word mantra for a successful marriage: