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May 4, 2010 > Mother's Day - Sunday, May 9

Mother's Day - Sunday, May 9

By Suzanne Ortt
Photos By Doris Nikolaidis

Flowers are picked, cakes baked, gifts chosen. Special meals are planned or restaurant reservations are made. All to honor mothers.

Mother's Day's history is diverse. In ancient Greece, a festival celebrated Cybele, a noble mother of Greek gods. Ancient Romans had Matronalia; a holiday dedicated to Juno, and, customarily, mothers received gifts on that day. Mothering Sunday evolved as a European tradition. A specific Sunday was set for family feasts with mothers as guests of honor.

The first English settlers in America stopped the Mothering Day tradition. Reasons ranged from long and harsh work to a conflict with Puritan ideals. Next, Julia Ward Howe established an annual Mother's Day for Peace, after the Civil War, June 2, 1870. She wanted to focus on motherhood and peace; to bring mothers together to protest the futility of their sons killing the sons of other mothers. Mother's Day for Peace had a sporadic history that ended in 1900, probably due to lack of financial support.

Anna Marie Jarvis conceived the next plan for Mother's Day. After her mother's death, she began her campaign for an official Mother's Day. She first approached the superintendent of her mother's church. On May 10, 1908, the first Mother's Day took place at the Andrews Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia.

By 1909, 46 states were having Mother's Day services. In 1912, West Virginia was the first state to make Mother's Day an official ceremony. Woodrow Wilson then made it a national observance in 1914, declaring it would be the second Sunday in May.

By 1923, Jarvis was protesting the commercialization of Mother's Day. She was arrested in the 1930's for disturbing the peace at the American War Mothers meeting; Jarvis was protesting the sale of flowers. However, in spite of her efforts, flower sales for Mother's Day multiplied. The Florist's Review stated, "Miss Jarvis was completely squelched." Jarvis died in 1948, blind, poor, and childless. Ironically, the Florist's Exchange anonymously paid for her care.

Mexico and Canada, our neighboring countries, have their own Mother's Day traditions.

On May 10, the people of Mexico celebrate the Da de las Madres. Music is the first step; the family sings a song to the mother, or possibly arranges a serenade by a hired band. Next will be a family breakfast or brunch. "Any family trouble or enmity is laid aside and all gather to honor the matriarch."

Canada began observing Mother's Day in 1909. Their customs are similar to those of the United States with an added emphasis on doing chores for mother and cooking her supper.

Many Greater Tri-City area restaurants offer a special meal and gratuities in honor of Mother's Day. Ardenwood Historic Farm and other local venues are offering unique events to celebrate the day and encourage family members to create a personalized gift for Mom on her special day.

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