FFE Magazine

Mother’s Day around the World

Mother’s Day is very special for Filipinos because we have been brought up in a culture that keeps very close ties with the family. However, did you know that this special occasion as it is celebrated today is not traditional in the Philippines and the rest of the world?



If this is true, how come we celebrate Mother’s Day the way we do today?


What and when


In the Philippines and most of Europe, Mother’s Day falls every year on the second Sunday of May. There are many ways to celebrate Mother’s Day, like preparing special dinners and going on a family outing to mum’s favourite places. In a nutshell, it is a day wherein we make our mum and all mothers we know feel very special.


However, it is not celebrated consistently in every country that observes it. Even the dates differ, with some countries celebrating in February and October. Why is that? Because Mother’s Day is an event that has been borrowed and reinterpreted from the original, American occasion.




Mother’s Day traces its roots in the late 19th and early 20th century. In the 1860s, Ann Reeves Jarvis of the US state of West Virginia organised mother’s clubs that taught childcare and promoted reconciliation among civil war factions.  Many other women started to organise mother’s days celebrating peace in the 1870s.



Anna Jarvis


But as a holiday, Mother’s Day was the creation of Anna Jarvis. After her mother Ann Reeves Jarvis died in 1905, Anna honoured her mother and all mothers who sacrificed for their children by celebrating a memorial in a Methodist church in West Virginia and a department store in Philadelphia in 1908. The store was owned by John Wanamaker who funded the first Mother’s Day celebration.


Inspired by the success of the first Mother’s Day, Anna started to campaign for a day reserved to honour mothers. Four years after the first Mother’s Day, many states have started to observe the holiday. By 1914, with the help of Anna’s own Mother’s Day International Association, President Woodrow Wilson officially made the second Sunday of May as Mother’s Day.


The story of Mother’s Day, however, ended on a sad note for Anna. As the holiday grew more and more popular, Anna’s idea of an intimate celebration between mums and their families became muddled by commercialisation. Florists, card companies and other businesses profited from the holiday by the 1920s, leading Anna to denounce Mother’s Day until she passed away.



Mother’s Day transformed from the original idea created by Anna simply because many people thought it was appropriate to celebrate it in whichever way they liked. From American culture to global cultures, Mother’s Day shifted and encouraged more interpretations from well-wishers around the world.


The same is true when Mother’s Day finally reached Philippine shores around the time of the American occupation.


Mother’s Day in the Philippines


In the Philippines, mums are often considered the ‘light of the home’ (ilaw ng tahanan). Filipina mothers are called such because, like light that attracts moths and tiny insects, mums draw the family closer together — including extended families. They also radiate warmth and give comfort as light does in the love and care they show by working very hard in their careers and in the home.



The Younghusbands with mum

Because of the way Filipinos see their mums, they have the habit of going all out to make Mother’s Day special. Going to church as a family is common especially since the holiday falls on a Sunday. Some common gifts include bunches of flowers, shopping spree, a treat to the beauty parlour, spa or similar places. Mums are exempt from household chores. There is also a special meal prepared by the family while the mum relaxes and pampers herself.


The way mums are treated during Mother’s Day in the Philippines is almost the same in different parts of the world, although there are variations thanks to cultural differences. Here are how some countries celebrate this occasion with their loved ones:




In the US, Mother’s Day, along with other family days, are usually considered ‘Hallmark Holidays’ referring to the huge surge in card giving all over the country. Long distance phone calls also shoot up during this day between mums who are left in hometowns and children who have moved to other states. Giving of carnations is popular and is characteristic of the original Mother’s Day initiated by Anna Jarvis.




Argentinians celebrate Mother’s Day every October originally to coincide with the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. October also coincides with the arrival of spring, which is associated with mums as they both usher in new life into the world.




The British celebrate Mother’s Day on Mothering Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent. Mothering Sunday traces its roots from the 16th century religious practice of visiting mother churches. However, it has since been influenced by the American holiday and was thus transformed into a day of mum’s appreciation through the sharing of cakes, giving of chocolates and flowers.




Mother’s Day in China has steadily grown popular through the years despite its American roots because it is consistent with the traditional Chinese emphasis on family ties. To mark the occasion, the Chinese have borrowed the practice of carnation-giving. But a movement to replace carnations with lilies has surfaced since in the old days lilies were planted by Chinese mothers when their children leave home.


France and Germany


In these two European countries, Mother’s Day traces its roots from attempts to boost the declining birth rate registered by the countries in the early 20th century. To implement this, authorities used to award large families financially to encourage smaller families to do better. But because this system was biased against mothers, its original purpose slowly fell from popularity. Today, they are celebrated in a manner like the rest of Europe: by gift-giving and sharing special meals.

Lilies for Chinese Mother’s Day

Lilies for Chinese Mother’s Day




Hindus do not celebrate Mother’s Day as a religious festival although mums are held in very high regard in their culture. Performances and special acts are usually conducted to honour them.




Mother’s Day falls on December in Indonesia, which was decreed in 1953. It was initially celebrated to raise awareness and help improve the mother’s condition.  Today, aside from gift-giving, mothers participate in competitions like cook-offs and wearing traditional attire.


Carnations for mums

Carnations for mums




Florists initiated the celebration of Mother’s Day in Holland to boost their industry. Aside from flowers, another popular gift includes ‘Mother’s Day cakes.’




Mother’s Day was created by law in Russia in 1998. Family competitions are common this day.


For many people, their mothers are the most important person in their life. This is why, no matter how it is celebrated, no matter how far children are from their mums, Mother’s Day remains an occasion that is rarely missed.






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