Hello everyone! I want to start by wishing you all a happy Mother’s Day, and I hope you’re getting to enjoy it with your loved ones. I’m currently enjoying the festivities with my beloved mother and grandmothers, so I won’t write much today. I just want to make a brief commentary on the history and transformation of Mother’s Day from unifying, somber national holiday to commercialized kitsch.
If you do a quick Google search on the history of Mother’s Day, you’ll find a assortment of different archival anecdotes about its humble beginnings. Not surprisingly, traditional ceremonies celebrating the sanctity of motherhood have been around since the dawn of society. The first recorded instances of this occurred in ancient Greece, where priests and people alike prayed to the “God Mother” Rhea, in humble expectations of a good crop.
Interestingly, when these pagan rituals began to die out, the reverence of the matron figure largely died out as a celebratory concept. It wasn’t really until Christianity took a solid foothold in medieval Europe that the concept of a “Holy Matron” reemerged, and we’ve been paying honor to our mothers ever since.
The roots of the American Mother’s Day celebration have a much more humanitarian foundation. In 1870, famed American female poet (and writer of the Battle Hymn of the Republic) Julia Ward Howe wrote a declarative proclamation of a nationally recognized Mother’s Day. Her prose spoke strongly against ever allowed the carnage of the Civil War to reign over America again, stating that it is a sin for mothers to let their sons partake in the killing of sons from other mothers.
Unfortunately, after Howe stopped funding public celebrations for the first Mother’s Day celebrations, the holiday fell out of fashion. It wasn’t until 1908 that Anna Jarvis would request the holiday to be federally recognized. A Sunday school vet of over 20 years wanted one Sunday out of the year to be dedicated to peace and motherhood. Her church went along with the idea, and promoted the holiday to local botanists and flower shops and the holiday exploded. In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson signed the holiday into law and we’ve been dealing with the card and flower companies ever since.
Today, the National Retail Foundation estimates the profits of Mother’s Day to exceed $14 billion. We shell out hard earned cash for cards, candies, and flowers at a premium. What else can we do when everyone else in our commercialized society does the same thing? It would be very difficult to explain to anyone why you didn’t get something for your mother on the day set aside to honor her (even if you don’t get along.)
So, are we victims to an overly commercialized society? What conclusions do we come to when we see the clear evolution of a holiday traditionally founded in the unification of our nation through the power of motherhood to a holiday where producers can be guaranteed our dollar (for the love of our mothers.)
I hope this short history lessons helps you think about what this day truly means. I love my mother and my grandmothers very much, and knowing there is a day set aside for me to honor them with love and affection (in addition to what my consumer habits tell me I should get for them) is both comforting and exciting.
I wish you all joyous celebrations, and a day filled with happiness and family love! For those of you unable to, then I wish you these things in spirit, and my home will always be open to those in need of love. (And the best Grandma cookin’ you could ever hope for!)