Mother’s Day is celebrated in a huge number of countries around the world. While some focus on its commercial side, it is first and foremost an expression of love, a tribute to maternal commitment and devotion. What could be more natural than a child thanking their mother and giving her a gift? We all remember the presents we made at primary school, and the care we took to ensure that those gifts would bring our beloved mothers joy. As we will see, however, Mother’s Day is celebrated in various ways depending on the country you find yourself in, taking different forms and enjoying different levels of popularity around the world. The date on which it is celebrated also changes.
From the traditional pasta necklace to the salt dough candle holder, paper mache jewellery box, clothes peg table mat or corrugated cardboard notebook holder – the actual usefulness of the gift given and its debatable aesthetic qualities don’t really matter, it is the child’s thought that counts. Likewise, reciting a poem, drawing a beautiful picture or producing a card full of sweet words are among the most common offerings. Then there are the presents you can buy from a shop. Looking at the trends in France, we can see that 75% of people buy something for their mother on Mother’s Day and the average spend is 60 euros. How about you? How much are you willing to spend on a Mother’s Day gift?
Perfume is a good option for those of us who are a little older. This time of the year is also a chance to present your mother with a bouquet of flowers, something that always brings joy. Roses are a very classic choice, but peonies, which symbolise affection, and lilies, the symbol of motherhood, are also sound options. It’s interesting to note that in other countries, different flowers are given to mark Mother’s Day. In Australia, for example, it’s very common to give your mother some chrysanthemums, a flower often associated with longevity in Asia. When Mothering Sunday was first established, youngsters in Britain gave their mums a cake, reversing roles for a day. But the gifts given by children take various forms around the world. In Mexico and some other countries in Latin America, mothers don’t work on Mother’s Day, allowing them to really enjoy their families. It’s a chance for women to go to the cinema or to a restaurant with their children, or they might do a bit of shopping.
Did you know, however, that in Buddhist countries and some parts of Asia, people have a very different view of celebrating mothers compared to our approach? For them, the aim is not to devote one day every twelve months to mothers, but to highlight their role all year round. It’s certainly an effective way to prevent the commercial side of Mother’s Day from dominating.
Many countries have traditions that are very similar to those in the United States, but it’s important to remember that it was the British who first had the idea of devoting a day to mothers back in the sixteenth century! One notable feature of Mother’s Day is that it is not celebrated on a fixed day across the world. However, it often coincides with spring and the arrival of good weather. In France, Mother’s Day will be celebrated on 7 June this year. In the United States, they have opted for the second Sunday in May since 1907. Why, you ask? It all began in 1872 when an American woman, Anna M. Jarvis, asked for a day to be devoted to all women with families, in line with the wishes of her own mother, who had by then passed away. Germany, Canada, Australia, Finland, Turkey, Denmark, Japan and Belgium have all opted for the same date, while in Spain, mothers are celebrated a week earlier. Other countries, such as India, Singapore and Saudi Arabia, mark Mother’s Day on 10 May. As for the Brits, they prefer to celebrate a little ahead of everyone else – Mothering Sunday falls in mid-March.
Bonne fête maman! in France, Gelelicituud! in the Netherlands, Herzliche Grüsse zum Muttertag! in Germany, Buona festa mamma! in Italy – these are all ways of expressing your love on Mother’s Day, which is known as Dia de la madre in Spanish-speaking countries, Festa della mamma in Italy and Muttertag to the Germans. But which country is behind the original Mother’s Day? It’s a difficult question to answer, since tributes to mothers have been with us since Antiquity. The Ancient Greeks paid tribute to Rhea, the deity considered to be the mother of the Olympian gods and goddesses (yes, gods have mums too!).
In France, it’s claimed that the famous Napoleon came up with the idea of celebrating mothers during spring, the ultimate season of rebirth and fertility, in 1806. The first “Day for Mothers of Large Families” was introduced in 1919, with lucky recipients even awarded a “Family Medal” by the authorities! After the Second World War, when the country suffered enormous loss of human life, it was important to encourage the population to have lots of babies and to reward large families. On 24 May 1950, Mother’s Day was made official by French President Vincent Auriol. Note that here in France, the date is set as the fourth Sunday of May each year, except where this coincides with Pentecost, when it moves to the first Sunday in June. Perfectly straightforward, don’t you think?