Ask LH: Why Doesn’t Every Country Celebrate Mother’s Day on the Same Day?

Ask LH: Why Doesn’t Every Country Celebrate Mother’s Day on the Same Day?
Credit: Red Table Talk/Instagram

As you (should) already know, Australia’s Mother’s Day is set for Sunday, May 9th this year (get your last-minute gifts here, here and here).

While it’s an annual event that’s celebrated in a number of different countries, the date for Mother’s Day is not consistent, internationally. Unlike other broadly recognised holidays like Christmas and Halloween, Mother’s Day has a more chaotic approach to it with different countries deciding to mark the occasion whenever they damn please.

The team behind curtain and blind biz, Victory Blinds (I suppose mums like window coverings?), went and looked into this trend and shared their – incredibly interesting – findings with us.

Here are some insights into Mother’s Day, worldwide

United States – the second Sunday of May

Like Australia, the States celebrates Mother’s Day on the second Sunday of May. As ABC reports, this idea first came from American writer and women’s rights activist Julia Ward Howe in 1870 but was popularised in 1908.

At this time, West Virginian woman Anna Marie Jarvis had held a memorial for her mother Ann Reeves Jarvis who cared for wounded soldiers during the Civil War. Jarvis pushed to have the date recognised as a way of honouring the work of her mother, and all mothers.

The annual celebration has since been adopted by many other countries, but many have chosen dates that connect to national traditions or significant events.

Australia’s Mother’s Day – the second Sunday of May

The first Aussie Mother’s Day followed the devastation of the First World War. In 1924 Sydney woman Janet Heyden began the tradition because she wanted to help lonely mothers she saw at Newington State Hospital while visiting a friend.

Heyden asked schools and businesses to donate gifts to the woman in the hospital who had lost husbands and sons in World War I.

France – last Sunday in May

Similarly to Australia, France’s mother’s day traditions also followed World War I. In 1920 the government started awarding medals to mothers of large families to thank them for helping rebuild the population after so many lives were lost. However, it wasn’t until after the Second World War that the government declared the last Sunday in May to be the Day of Mothers.

Brazil – second Sunday in May

In Brazil Mother’s day is the second most commercial holiday after Christmas. The day also falls on the second Sunday in May with special performances by children and church gatherings.

Russia – last Sunday in November

In the former Soviet Union, mothers were celebrated on International Women’s Day which falls on March 8. However, in 1998, post-soviet Russia introduced Mother’s day on the last Sunday in November. Most presents are still shared in March.

Japan – second Sunday in May

Following World War II, a version of Mother’s Day grew popular as a way to comfort mothers who had lost sons in the war. Carnations are given around March in Japan as they symbolise the sweetness and endurance of motherhood.

Ethiopia – Autumn

The Antrosht festival, which is observed at the end of the rainy season in early autumn, is dedicated to mothers. After the weather clears, family members return home for large meals and celebrations. Sons traditionally supply the meat and daughters bring vegetables and cheese. They then prepare the meal and sing and perform dances while sharing family stories.

United Kingdom – fourth Sunday of Lent

In the UK, Mother’s Day Sunday falls on the fourth Sunday of Lent, dating back to the 1700s. Global Citizen reports that traditionally the date was called Mothering Sunday where the children of working-class families would head home for a day with flowers and cakes in tow.

Middle East – March 21

Al Jazeera writes that in much of the Middle East, Mother’s Day falls on March 21st. It’s reported the event started in Egypt in 1956 – inspired by the writings of Mustafa Amin who touched on the event in his book A Smiling America.

According to the outlet, his suggestion of bringing the tradition to the Middle East led to March 21 being selected for the annual occasion.

So, in short, there are loads of reasons behind the choice of date for Mother’s Day country-to-country. Some are deeply rooted in tradition, others seem a little more arbitrary, but all of them take a moment to recognise the incredible value of mothers and ain’t that just lovely? (Cynical opinions on the commercialisation of these dates, aside.)

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