Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Origins of Mothers Day

With its beautiful flowers and warm temperatures,
there is no better month than May to celebrate motherhood.
But Mothers Day is not only an American custom, it is celebrated around the world.
I found a fascinating web site called Mothers Day Central.
The site has celebration ideas, acitvities, products, gifts,
and even recipes for mom's breakfast.
 My main interest is in the site's chronicle of the history of Mothers Day,
a celebration that can be traced back in one form or another to ancient times.
For a comprehensive accounting of Mothers Day, here's their history page link:
Mothers Day Central says the Egyptians celebrated Isis as the mother of all the pharaohs.
Other sources say Isis symbolizes wisdom, protection, and motherhood.
The Romans celebrated Magna Mater,
a gala in honor of the mysterious Phrygian goddess Cybele, the mountain mother. 
The Greeks celebrated the goddess Rhea as the "exemplar of devoted motherhood"
Modern Mothers Day in Europe may have started with the British holiday Mothering Day,
a celebration of Easter and the arrival of spring, dating back to the 1600s. 
The Mothers Day Central site says Mothering Day grew from the Roman festival of Hilaria,
the celebration of the goddess Cybele--
not surprising since the Romans inhabited the UK and much of Europe in early history.
Yet, Mothering Day was dropped as a celebration in the American colonies,
only to re-emerge in new form as an attempt at peaceful relationships
following the Civil War, thanks to Julia Ward Howe,
the composer of the Battle Hymn of the Republic.
Howe was heartsick over the casualties and mayhem of the War,
so she called for all mothers to unite for peace. She said:
"We women of one country
will be too tender of those of another country
to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs." *

Howe's efforts did not receive official recognition,
but her ideas were taken up in the early 20th century by
Anna Reeves Jarvis, a West Virginia woman who started a Mother's Friendship Day
as a way to heal the the long-held rifts caused by the Civil War.
It is from the efforts of Mrs. Jarvis's daughter Anna
that our modern Mothers Day arose.
Unfortunately, the commercialization of the day began almost immediately,
and despite Miss Jarvis's tireless efforts to stop it, capitalism prevailed.*
*(cited in Mothers Day Central)

White carnations are the flower for mothers on their special day.
A simnel cake, a marzipan-covered fruitcake
decorated with 11 marzipan balls for each of the apostles
(Judas Iscariot being denied a place on the cake) is often baked
for Mothering Day celebrations in England.
Flowers, cake, breakfast--all nice things to honor our moms.

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