The history of Mother’s day can be traced back to ancient Greece, where the annual spring festival was celebrated in honor of Rhea, the wife of Cronus, and mother to several Gods and Goddesses. In Rome, a similar festival was dedicated to Cybele, the Great mother of Gods. This festival was known as ‘Hilaria’ and is traced back to around 250 BC. In both these festivals, several offerings were made to the goddesses to appease them and to seek their blessings. Rhea and Cybele were symbols of motherhood to the Greeks and the Romans, respectively, and therefore, these festivals are widely perceived to be the precursors of the present day celebration of motherhood, through the festival celebrated as Mother’s Day.
There is also evidence of a festival prevalent in the British Isles and Celtic Europe where a festival called the Spring Mother’s Day was celebrated in honor of the Goddess Brigid. However, these festivals differed in conception from the present day Mother’s Day in that they celebrated the concept of motherhood rather than giving honor and respect to the immediate mothers.
In England, a festival was celebrated on the fourth Sunday of May in honor of Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus Christ. This festival was celebrated at Lent and was proclaimed as Mothering Sunday. On this day, the workers would be given permission to visit their homes for a day to meet with their mothers. They usually carried a cake with them or some other gift for their mothers. This practice, however, died out in the 19th century but was revived again after World War II by the American servicemen. In America, the seeds of Mother’s Day were sown by Anna Jarvis who wanted the women in her community to help improve the sanitation in her town. She organized a day known as the Mother’s Work Day to spread awareness about the necessity of good sanitation in the community.
When she died, her daughter, who was also named Anna, struggled to make the community observe at least one day in the honor of motherhood. In May 1907, a mother’s day service was held at the Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia. Her efforts were finally rewarded in 1914 when Woodrow Wilson, the President of the United States, passed a resolution declaring Mother’s Day as a national holiday.
Mother’s Day is acknowledged to this day as a celebration of womanhood, when we celebrate not only the contribution that a mother makes within her family by rearing her children but also the contribution she makes to the society at large.
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