The History of Mother’s Day - Origin, Facts, & Traditions

Mother's Day
The History of Mother’s Day - Origin, Facts, & Traditions

We celebrate Mother’s Day to honor the accomplishments of the women in our life. It’s also a time to cherish the relationship between child and mother. But who created the American tradition of Mother’s Day, and how do other countries celebrate it? It seems like a regular calendar event, but Mother’s Day only recently became a recognized and practiced tradition around the globe. (And no, it wasn’t created by Hallmark.)

Mother’s Day recognizes women for all they do. And unsurprisingly, it took some inspiring women to bring this holiday to the world. Learn more about the history of Mother’s Day, plus get tips and ideas for making your mom feel extra appreciated this year.

The History of Mother’s Day

The origins of a motherhood celebration can be traced back to Ancient Greece and Rome, where festivals were held in honor of their mother goddesses, Rhea and Cybele. Much later, in the 16th century, Mothering Sunday was recognized during the fourth Sunday of Lent for parishes of the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church. This holiday was less about mothers and more about attending your “mother church,” meaning the local Christian church. 

But the history of Mother’s Day as we know it came from humble origins in West Virginia, USA. 

During the American Civil War, Ann Reeves Jarvis, known as “Mother Jarvis” in her local parish, helped start “Mother’s Day Work Clubs” to raise awareness of the poor health conditions in her community. These clubs proved to be an excellent unifying force for a region that was very socially divided during the Civil War. After the war ended, Jarvis organized “Mother’s Friendship Day” to promote reconciliation between the Union and Confederacy.

The United States in the late 19th century saw a lot of different movements to organize a Mother’s Day, including from Julia Ward Howe, an abolitionist and suffragist, who wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation.” This called for mothers to unite and promote world peace.

Quiet Game Graphic

Who Created the American Tradition of Mother’s Day?

The day we now recognize as Mother’s Day came from the efforts of Ann Jarvis’s daughter, Anna. Anna saw how valiantly her mother expressed activism to give mothers the recognition they deserve. She made it her life mission to get Mother’s Day onto the national calendar, and in 1908, she sparked the first widely recognized celebration of the holiday while she held a public memorial for her mother in Grafton, West Virginia. 

Anna’s campaign continued to gain popularity over the years, as she teamed up with floral companies and department stores to spread the word. By 1912, Mother’s Day had spread to Puerto Rico, Mexico, Canada, and 45 US states (many of which adopted Mother’s Day as an annual holiday).

Finally, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Mother’s Day a national holiday to be celebrated every year on the second Sunday of May.

A Rise in Commercialization

Anna Jarvis’ vision of a peaceful and personal day for honoring and visiting with mothers quickly became commercialized by florists, retailers, and card companies. Although she had initially worked with these industries to promote the holiday, she felt it had spiraled into something unrecognizable. It seemed that spending time with one’s mother, expressing appreciation, and even helping her with her duties was now overshadowed by gift-buying.

Soon, Jarvis was lobbying the government to have the holiday removed from calendars. She also denounced the holiday and campaigned against companies who profited from it.

Fortunately, today we can preserve Jarvis’ intended celebrations—and shower mom with well-deserved gifts as well. The best way to do this is by choosing a gift that reminds her of how much we appreciate all she has done for us. Flowers and candy are lovely, but what about a night off from cooking dinner and doing the dishes? 

Mother's Day Gift Ideas

What mothers want most is a chance to spend quality time with their families and to have a break from their daily duties. Give her a gourmet meal she didn’t have to plan, cook, or clean up after, and gather around the table for a meaningful visit. 

    • Family Movie Night - Order in or cook Mom’s favorite meal, then gather the family for a movie, popcorn, and treats.
    • Gluten-Free Soup, etc. - Does your mom have special dietary needs? Order a gluten-free or a vegan meal with the right soup, rolls, and cookies.
    • Jewelry - Give mom something from the heart that reminds her of you.

Keep reading for more great gift ideas for Mother’s Day, including a limited-edition Mother's Day gift package from Spoonful of Comfort.

When Did Mother’s Day Start?

The end of World War I was when Mother’s Day started to gain popularity, and it took some time for it to become a widely recognized holiday as it is today. Since it was largely seen as an American holiday, other countries were slow to adopt the tradition. 

Many countries, like France and Germany, had very low birth rates after all the men were fighting overseas and women were working labor intensive jobs. These countries, and those in similar situations, started campaigns as a way to encourage motherhood and childbearing. France even gave awards to mothers of large families during this time, and mayors throughout France continue the tradition of awarding the Médaille de la Famille. Over time, Mother’s Day in these countries turned into a celebration of all mothers—not just the ones who were having a lot of children.

When Is Mother’s Day in 2021?

In 2021, Mother’s Day falls on Sunday, May 9, as it’s celebrated in the United States and most other countries. The specific date varies year to year since it occurs on the second Sunday of May. Here’s a helpful list to know when it is Mother’s Day for a variety of countries:

    • May 2 (First Sunday of May): Spain, Portugal, Angola, Hungary, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Lithuania
    • May 9: United States and most European countries
    • May 10: Mexico
    • May 26: Poland
    • May 30 (Last Sunday of May): Algeria, Cameroon, Dominican Republic, Madagascar, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Haiti, Senegal, Sweden
    • June 6 (First Sunday of June if the last Sunday of May is Pentecost): France
    • June 13: Luxembourg
    • July 5: South Sudan
    • August 12: Thailand
    • August 15: Costa Rica
    • October 17: Argentina

Many countries that don’t recognize a formalized version of Mother’s Day do celebrate International Women’s Day, which is on March 8.

Mother’s Day Traditions Around The World

The history of Mother’s Day has led to celebrating mothers through holidays around the world, but different cultures have their own way of celebrating it. Common traditions include buying flowers and chocolates and writing cards for your mom. 

Kids will sometimes take charge of the cooking and cleaning dishes to give moms a “day off.” Kids can also make homemade cards, drawings, and gifts to show mom how much they adore her. Or they can give mom a gift they’ll both benefit from with this Cookies & Cuddles combo!

United Kingdom

Other countries have tied their Mother’s Day to previous celebrations. The United Kingdom took Mothering Sunday, the old tradition celebrated in the fourth week of Lent, and rebranded it to reflect the American Mother’s Day. 


Meanwhile, Thailand holds their motherhood celebration on August 12, which is their queen’s birthday. Celebrate the queen in your home with tea and cookies; you can even have a tea party in her honor.


Then there are countries like Mexico that go all out for their moms. Their celebration shuts down the entire country, as everyone works to honor their mothers as best they can; often, Mother’s Day lunches in Mexico can last as long as five hours! Keep the party going at your house with cookies and gourmet cocoa!


Mother’s Day around the world takes many other forms as well. In Spain, children take a week to prepare for Mother’s Day. School children will spend a few hours every day preparing gifts for their mothers, often with the help of their teachers. A whole week of preparing? Talk about warm fuzzies!


Nepal has a festival equivalent to Mother’s Day called Mata Tirtha Aunsi, which translates to “Mother Pilgrimage New Moon.” Not only do the Nepalis take the time to honor their mothers, but they look to remember mothers who have died. The tradition was originally to make a pilgrimage to the Mata Tirtha ponds, located near Kathmandu. Show your mother you honor her and your family traditions with this unique mindfulness coloring book.


Ethiopia holds a three-day festival, Antrosht, for their mothers, occurring sometime between October and November. In their tradition, everyone works together to create a massive feast. Even the children are involved; they have to gather the ingredients.

Mothers day soup package

Celebrate The True Meaning of Mother’s Day with Spoonful of Comfort

Across the globe, giving presents on Mother’s Day is a cherished form of showing love! And here at Spoonful of Comfort, it’s one of our favorite holidays. After all, Spoonful of Comfort was created in honor of our founder’s own mom.

Which is why we’ve put together a gift your mother is sure to love. Our limited-edition Spoonful of Comfort Mother’s Day package delivery includes a full meal of homestyle soup (your choice), rolls, and cookies (the kind she’d make herself!), plus a Floral lollipop with plant-able stick and additional options to include “The Little Book of Motherhood”, a “Soup-er Mom” spoon and a “Best Mom Ever” bracelet! So check out our website and see how you can make Mother’s Day in 2021 that much more special.


See more Spoonful of Comfort Mother’s Day Content


[Mother’s Day Gift Guide]


[Mother’s Day for a Grandma]


[Mother’s Day General]

  • Mother’s Day History, Facts, and Traditions (➜ Currently Reading)

➜ Order the special Mother’s Day gift package from Spoonful of Comfort!


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