10 Fun Facts About Mother’s Day

Photo by Lee Rennick

Mother’s Day is a holiday that is celebrated all over the world, with the modern variation starting in the United States.

The roots of Mother’s Day go back to the Ancient Greeks who celebrated Rhea, the goddess of motherhood, fertility, childbirth, comfort and good living, according to study.com. “She is the daughter of Gaea and Uranus, two of the primordial gods who represent earth and sky, respectively.”

During the Middle Ages, mothers were celebrated on Laetare Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent, according to Britannica.com. It became Mothering Sunday in Britain, and has since turned into Mother’s Day.

Current national Mother’s Day celebrations were started in America by Anna Jarvis in honor of her mother who was a lifelong activist for better health for she and her neighbors in Appalachia, according to the National Women’s History Alliance. Anna’s mother, known as “Mother Jarvis” in her community, organized “Mother’s Work Days” to improve sanitation and avert deaths caused by disease-bearing insects and polluted water, as well as working to heal the rift between former Union and Confederate soldiers who lived side-by-side in her local community after the Civil War.

“[When] … Anna Jarvis was only twelve years old in 1878…she listened to her mother teach a Sunday school lesson on mothers in the Bible. ‘I hope and pray that someone, sometime, will found a memorial Mother’s Day,’ the senior Jarvis said. ‘There are many days for men, but none for mothers.’”

Anna Jarvis embarked on a campaign after her mother’s death to create such a day. She hammered important men, including then President William Taft and former President Theodore Roosevelt, with a stream of letters to enlist their help, gaining an allay in Philadelphia merchant John Wannamaker.

The first modern celebration of the day was in May of 1907. A Mother’s Day service was arranged on the second Sunday in May at the Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia, where Mother Jarvis had taught. “That same day a special service was held at the Wannamaker Auditorium in Philadelphia, which could seat no more than a third of the 15,000 people who showed up,” noted in the National Women’s History Alliance article. The celebration soon spread throughout the country, with President Woodrow Wilson signing the Congressional resolution making it an official national holiday in 1914. We have been celebrating it ever since.

Here are 10 fun and informative facts about the day:

  1. Carnations are the flowers associated with Mother’s Day. Wearing a red or pink carnation signifies a living mother, and white carnations signify a dead one.
  2. According to Britannica.com, Anna Jarvis spent the last years of her life trying to abolish Mother’s Day because it had become too commercialized and she felt it had lost its meaning.
  3. Durga Puja is a festival in India similar to Mother’s Day, which honors the goddess Durga. Durga is associated with strength, protection and motherhood, as well as destruction and wars, much like the Celtic goddess Morrigan.
  4. Mother’s Day accounts for an estimated 24% of floral sales in a given year.
  5. The oldest mother on record is Rajo Devi. In 2008, she gave birth to her first child at the age of 70 years old.
  6. Forty-six countries around the world celebrate Mother’s Day in some form.
  7. Live Science reports that the temporal and left frontal parts of the brain become more active when a baby, or anyone, hears a word like “mama.” There is something soothing in the sound and our brains are hardwired to respond to words with repetitive sounds.
  8. The terms “mom” and “mama” have almost similar or related versions across the world, according to beelinguapp.com.
  9. Americans spent about $23 billion on the holiday each year.
  10. One mother reported to Fatherly.com that she received the worst Mother’s Day gift ever in the form of a case of food poisoning from breakfast in bed. “I think it was from the spinach they used,” said the mother. She did say it was a nice thought.

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