Mother's Day is a holiday to honor and give thanks to our mothers. People celebrate the day all over the world. In France, a flower-shaped cake is part of the family meal. In the U.S., most restaurants claim this day as their busiest all year. In many other countries, carnations have a special significance.
Although the holiday is very commercial, it's not a Hallmark holiday. In other words, it's not a holiday created by businesses to make money. Mother's Day actually has its origins long ago in ancient Greece. Rome, which copied much of the Greek way of life, had a similar holiday. So did other countries around the Mediterranean Sea. Unlike today, though, people didn't honor their own mothers. People honored the mother of the gods, Rhea. After the Roman Empire fell, Mother's Day disappeared.
So how did our modern version of the holiday come about?
Many believe that Mother's Day as we know it originated from the British holiday called "Mothering Sunday." All through the Middle Ages in Europe, people brought gifts to their home (or mother) church on the fourth Sunday of Lent. Then in the 16th century, people began to live greater and greater distances from where they had been born. About this time, it also became increasingly common for children to work far from home as servants and apprentices. They would often need the day off to make the journey, which also allowed them to visit their mothers and family. They would bring a cake and pick wildflowers to give as presents, too. From here the holiday was born.
Americans have had a great influence on the holiday, too. A woman named Julia Ward Howe brought the holiday from Britain in the 1870s. She saw it as a way to honor mothers, of course, but also as a way to honor and promote peace. Then in the early 1900s, another woman campaigned for a national holiday for mothers. Her name was Anna Jarvis, and she sent letters to business leaders, clergy members, women's clubs, and anyone else who might help. Within a few years, forty-six States celebrated the holiday. In 1914, Mother's Day became an official holiday, and was quickly commercialized with cards, carnation flowers, and chocolate candy. Anna Jarvis "wanted it to be a day of sentiment, not profit." She also called greeting cards "a poor excuse for the letter you are too lazy to write!"
Different countries celebrate the holiday on different days. Different countries have adopted different traditions. But one thing remains the same everywhere: it's a day to say to your mom, "Thank you."