Sons, daughters and husbands across the U.S. were picking up their last-minute gifts this week ahead of the annual ritual to honor mothers — if not, let’s hope they at least woke mom up with a smile and a great big “I love you.”
But Mother’s Day, unlike those All-American dates of Thanksgiving and July 4, is not exceptional to the U.S. In many countries, religious or cultural holidays revolving around women and families have evolved into their own celebrations of motherhood. In other countries, the Hallmark-card-giving American holiday has merely been imported. And in still others, it’s something of a mix.
In Thailand, Mother’s Day is always celebrated in August on the birthday of the current queen, Sirikit. For Chinese and Indian moms, this is a relatively new holiday. In China, it has become somewhat merged with the Confucian tradition of filial piety. Both countries show mom their love with gifts and festivities on the second Sunday of May.
Japan initially aligned Haha no Hi with the birthday of Empress Koujun, whose tenure spanned most of the 20th century. But Mother’s Day has since been moved to the second Sunday in May, when the Japanese load their mothers with gifts — primarily flowers.
Another alternate observance of Mother’s Day can be found in Ethiopia, where families gather each fall to sing songs and eat a large feast as part of Antrosht, a multi-day celebration honoring motherhood.
Mexico takes very Mother’s Day very seriously. In fact, it is the busiest day of the year for restaurants in the country. Flowers are a must, but the day is also filled with music, food, celebrations, and often a morning serenade of the song “Las Mananitas” from mariachi singers.
The Aussies and Canadians honor their mothers on the same day as Americans, but for our British and Irish cousins, mums are celebrated on the 4th Sunday during the month of Lent.
In the United States, Mother’s Day continues to be celebrated by presenting mothers and other women with gifts and flowers, and it has become one of the biggest holidays for consumer spending. Families also celebrate by giving mothers a day off from activities like cooking or other household chores — spa day anyone?
At times, Mother’s Day has also been a date for launching political or feminist causes. In 1968 Coretta Scott King, wife of Martin Luther King Jr., used Mother’s Day to host a march in support of underprivileged women and children. In the 1970s women’s groups also used the holiday as a time to highlight the need for equal rights and access to childcare.
Honoring Military Moms
While motherhood itself can be a full-time job, some moms also balance double duty by serving in the military or as a military spouse. On Thursday, the White House celebrated those particular moms at with the Celebration of Military Mothers and Spouses Event, where the First Lady remarked:
Today, I want to take this opportunity to let you all know that as mothers who are members of the military community, you deserve recognition for not only your love for your children, but for the dedication and sacrifice you make on behalf of our country each and every day.
Congratulations also goes out to Krista Simpson Anderson, who was chosen by the Defense Department as the 2018 Military Spouse of the Year. Anderson co-founded a nonprofit that supports veterans and Gold Star families, The Unquiet Professional, and works as a speaker to raise money for Folds of Honor, a nonprofit that provides scholarships to families of fallen and wounded service members. Anderson, the mother of two young boys, is active in the military community and is married to Army Master Sgt. Gus Anderson, stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington
A Message to All Moms
To all of the moms who are still with us or who have left us too soon, for the step moms who take on the mantle, for the dads who step up to be mom too, we wish you a very Happy Mother’s Day. I hope you know how important you are in the world, not just as a mother, but as a woman who has undoubtedly tried to do her best to be kind, generous, and loving. At the end of the day you are more than just a mother, although being a mother is certainly enough to garner respect and admiration.
Becoming a mom was the single greatest event that ever happened to me. It is my greatest joy, my most challenging job, and the source of my deepest fears —to watch a part of myself walk forever outside of my body, where I cannot always protect them, but shall always try. However and whenever you choose to spend your Mother’s Day — I hope you all feel loved.
Featured image courtesy of the Department of Defense