May 1, 2018

A Day for Mothers

By Mary Schricker Gemberling

In 1914 Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation designating Mother’s Day, held on the second Sunday in May, as a national holiday.

“God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers.”

… Rudyard Kipling

One day in early March I was working on organizing our upcoming trip to England and Scotland. While searching for lodging I came across an advertising banner for a Mother’s Day package at a bed and breakfast in Coventry England. I thought it seemed a bit early to be taking brunch reservations for a holiday that was still over two months away? I then found out that March 11th 2018 was actually Mother’s Day in England!

Further research revealed that ‘Mothering Sunday,’ as it is called in the UK, is linked to the Christian calendar and was originally founded as a day for Christians to visit the first church they attended in their hometown for a special service during Lent. Over the years ‘Mothering Sunday’ transitioned into a more secular holiday known as Mother’s Day. For whatever reason, possibly to disassociate themselves from British traditions, the early pilgrims did not bring the idea of ‘Mothering Sunday’ with them when they came to America.

The modern holiday of Mother’s Day in America did not come about until 1908 when Anna Jarvis held a memorial service for her mother at St. Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia. Anna’s mother, Anne Reeves Jarvis, a political activist fought for peace and worked diligently to improve the health of people in her community. Anna campaigned for a national day to honor all mothers, and by 1911 all U.S states observed the holiday. In 1914 Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation designating Mother’s Day, held on the second Sunday in May, as a national holiday.

Anna and her mother were also responsible for the tradition of giving flowers on Mother’s Day. As a young girl living in Philadelphia, Anna and her mother cared for a garden full of white carnations, her mother’s favorite flower. In 1907, Anna delivered 500 white carnations to the church where her mother taught Sunday school so that one carnation could be given to each mother in the congregation as they arrived to church on Sunday. Every year after that,
the church upheld the tradition and continued to hand out carnations at their Mother’s Day service. Neighboring community churches also began handing out carnations, eventually resulting in the carnation being named the official Mother’s Day flower. Anna had once said that the white carnations were thought to “typify some of the virtues of motherhood; ….whiteness stands for purity; its lasting qualities, faithfulness; its fragrance, love; its wide field of growth, charity; its form, beauty….”

Without a doubt, the celebration of Mother’s Day has grown from its humble beginnings. Many churches will still give a single flower to the mom’s as they attend services, but the focus for most Americans will be on showering mom with everything from flowers, to jewelry, to special outings at their favorite restaurants. According to the National Retail Foundation, American consumers will spend nearly $25 billion dollar showing moms how much they care. Since none of these items would be on my Mother’s Day wish-list, I wondered what most moms really want on their special day. I decided this probably would have a lot to do with their age and lifestyle. A young stay-at-home mom might want a day ‘without her kids.’ Whereas a mom who juggled her domestic life and parenting with a full-time job might want someone to clean her house or a week’s worth of prepared meals. A mom whose children have left the nest might just want to spend some time alone with them or be surprised by a visit from afar. And an older parent and grandmother (this is where I hope my children are reading this article) would only want a long
day spent with her family being reminded of how very blessed she is!

Mary, a former educator and Seniors Real Estate Specialist, is the author of three books: The West End Kid, A Labor of Love; My Personal Journey through the World of Caregiving, and Hotel Blackhawk; A Century of Elegance.

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