As we enter early summer, which is my favorite time of year, I once again am struck with the differences between the United States and jolly old England. Obviously it is around 20 degrees hotter here and flip-flops already are daily wear, but another big difference is the celebration of Mother’s Day.
As you know, Mother’s Day is celebrated in America (and much of the rest of the world) on Sunday, May 8, this year.
Before emigrating to Georgia, I did not realize that this annual event originated in American Mothers’ Day Work Clubs, which were a feminist response to the carnage of the Civil War. Out of these grew a campaign, led by activist Anna Jarvis, for a national holiday to celebrate the lives of all mothers. Jarvis swore at her mother’s graveside in 1905 to dedicate her life to establishing a Mother’s Day to honor mothers living and dead.
West Virginia became the first state to adopt an official Mother’s Day in 1912 – the day was fixed as the second Sunday of May and enshrined in law across the United States two years later.
However, in the United Kingdom, Mother’s Day traditionally is known as Mothering Sunday and celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent.
It has been part of the Christian calendar for centuries and originally was a celebration of both the Virgin Mary and the Mother Church.
On this day, people would travel from smaller “daughter” churches to worship in their large local churches or cathedrals.
There also are historical records to show that celebrating the importance of mothers goes back to pagan times when ancient Greeks, Romans and Celts honored goddesses during the spring as the earth sprang back to life after winter.
In more recent times in England, Mothering Sunday acquired a further layer of maternal association when it became the established day on which domestic servants were given a holiday to go home to visit their mothers. Some might have taken gifts of traditional British fruit and marzipan cakes they had baked or gathered wild flowers – particularly yellow daffodils – from the hedgerows as they walked to visit their families in that gentler homespun era.
Now, like most holidays, Mother’s Day has become more commercialized. As early as the 1920s, Jarvis was very concerned about this, saying that she “wanted it to be a day of sentiment, not profit.” She opposed the selling of flowers and said “a printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world.”
Sadly, Jarvis never had children of her own and died in 1948, blind and penniless, before she was buried beside her mother.
Nevertheless, progress marches on, and in the United States, 96 percent of Americans will take part in some way in Mother’s Day celebrations – and there are about 82.5 million mothers in this great nation.
Retailers report that Mother’s Day is the second highest gift-giving holiday after Christmas, and many restaurants say that the second Sunday in May is their busiest day of the year. Mother’s Day also is widely reported as the peak day of the year for long-distance telephone calls.
So, whatever you choose to do, if you are lucky enough to have a mother still on this earth, remember her on Sunday.
As for me, I did all this last month but already have bought my 2012 Mother’s Day card to carefully put away for mailing to my mother in England next March – the fourth Sunday of Lent. Sometimes it gets confusing to be a transplanted English Rose in Georgia.
God bless America!
Francis grew up in London, England, and moved to Richmond Hill in 2009 with her American husband, Carl, and English dogs. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.lesleyfrancispr.com.