Mother’s Day: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

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Google is celebrating Mother’s Day on May 10, 2015 with a Google Doodle. Learn about the history of the holiday that celebrates motherhood around the world, including: Australia, China, India, Germany, Italy, Brazil, and of course the United States and Canada.

Read on to learn 5 fast facts about Mother’s Day:


1. It’s the Second Sunday in May

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According to the Legacy Project, Mother’s Day isn’t a new holiday at all. They write:

The earliest Mother’s Day celebrations can be traced back to the spring celebrations of ancient Greece in honor of Rhea, the mother of the gods. People would make offerings of honey-cakes, fine drinks, and flowers at dawn.

In the modern world, Mother’s Day always falls on the second Sunday in May. This year, 2015, will be the 101st official Mother’s Day in the United States. After a Mother’s Day bill passed both houses in 1914, it was signed into law on May 9 by then President Woodrow Wilson.

However, the idea of an official Mother’s Day had been floating around since the Civil War spearheaded by peace groups, mostly made up of mothers. Leading this cause was Ann Jarvis, who created “Mother’s Friendship Day” in 1868. But Jarvis had been planning such a day before the war started in 1861. The Legacy Project further writes:

At the beginning of the Civil War, Mrs. Jarvis called together four of her Clubs and asked them to make a pledge that friendship and goodwill would not be a victim of the conflict between the states. In a display of compassion, courage, and friendship, the members of these Clubs nursed soldiers from both sides and saved many lives.

After the Civil War, Mrs. Jarvis worked as a peacemaker encouraging families to set aside differences created by the polarization of the war. In 1868, she organized a “Mother’s Friendship Day” to bring together families that had been divided by the conflict.

The first modern Mother’s Day was then held in 1908, three years after Ann Jarvis’ death, by her daughter, Anna Jarvis. 6 years later it was signed into law.


2. There Are Various Traditions

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Workers put in order bouquets of carnations in front of Revolution monument at the square with the same name on May 9, 2012 in the eve of Mothers Day’s celebration in Mexico City. About twenty thousand bouquets were placed at the monument which will be distributed next May 10 during Mothers Day’s. (YURI CORTEZ/AFP/GettyImages)

Traditions vary for Mother’s Day, but usually include some sort of family togetherness. Common global Mother’s Day activities include: attending church as a family, the distribution of carnations, and family lunches or dinners.

Carnations are associated with Mother’s Day because of its founder, Anna Jarvis. On the first Mother’s Day in 1908, Jarvis delivered 500 of them at the first celebration at Wanamaker Auditorium at John Wanamaker‘s mercantile in Philadelphia. After that they became associated with the holiday.

Many churches now follow this carnation tradition to this day.


3. It Became Extremely Commercialized

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After Hallmark and other companies began to dominate American holidays in the 1920s with the advent of the greeting card, Mother’s Day quickly became commercialized.

Original Mother’s Day cards can be viewed on Hallmark’s website here.

It is now one of the top holidays to sending greeting cards. According to GreetingCard.org:

The most popular Seasonal cards are Christmas cards, with some 1.6 billion units purchased (including boxed cards). This is followed by cards for Valentine’s Day (145 million units, not including classroom valentines), Mother’s Day (133 million units), Father’s Day (90 million units), Graduation (67 million units), Easter (57 million units), Halloween (21 million units), Thanksgiving (15 million units) and St. Patrick’s Day (7 million units).


4. It Grew Because of Greeting Cards

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Modern Mother’s Day grew to the international level because of the greeting card industry.

Despite its success, this embittered the younger Jarvis who saw the commercialization of the holiday as everything she was against. According to the Deseret News:

Jarvis was a bit irked to see Wilson get credit for Mother’s Day.

“When the national government recognized it, it was already being celebrated,” said Dr. Katharine Lane Antolini, assistant professor of history and international studies at West Virginia Wesleyan College. “It bothered Jarvis when Wilson got credit for establishing it.”

Jarvis had envisioned a sweet, even reverential holiday where children would visit their mothers or send handwritten letters. In a thank-you note to Wilson she wrote of a “great Home Day of our country for sons and daughters to honor their mothers and fathers and homes in a way that will perpetuate family ties and give emphasis to true home life.”


5. Father’s Day is Next

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Not to be outdone, Father’s Day 2015 lands on Sunday, June 21 next month.