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How Is Mother's Day Celebrated Around The World

20 Feb 2021

Every year around the world, people celebrate Mother's Day - but in most countries this is celebrated on the second Sunday in May. So how do these countries celebrate Mother's Day and why is the date completely different in the UK?

Firstly though, a few fun facts about Mother's Day:

  • In the UK, it is the biggest flower buying day of the year surpassing Valentine's day and Christmas day
  • If you've not booked a table in advance at a restaurant (sadly unlikely to be an option in the UK in 2021), then you'd be lucky to get one since it is one of the most popular days of the year to eat out
  • There are at least 46 countries around the world have some form of Mother's Day celebrations
  • It is estimated that over $21 billion is spent in the United States on Mother's Day celebrations
  • Ancient Greece saw one of the first Mother's Day celebrations, with Rhea, the goddess of fertility, motherhood and generation honoured.

Find out how Mother's Day is celebrated around the world by reading on.

Mother's Day In The UK

The UK has had days dedicated to Mother's Day dating back to the 17th Century.

Tradition has seen "Mothering Sunday" take place on the fourth Sunday of Lent - however unlike Christmas Day (which is always the 25th December in the UK), Lent, Easter Sunday and Mother's Day always change as they always take place on a day.

(Ash) Wednesday sees the beginning of lent, and both Easter and Mother's Day celebrated on a Sunday, rather than a definitive date.

However which Sunday that turns out to be is a little bit more complicated.

Generally Easter falls on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the 20th March.

Why the 20th March?

In 325AD astronomers calculated astronomical full moon dates for the church - these were referred to as EFM dates or Ecclesiastical Full Moon dates. This meant Easter was defined as the first Sunday to fall after the first full moon after the 20th March.

What does this means for when Easter can fall?

Well, the absolute earliest Easter "could" fall would be the 22nd March - however no-one reading this will be around to see the next time this happens since it will take place in 2285AD

The latest Easter can fall is the 25th April and this will next happen 17 years from now in 2038.

Why are we talking about Easter in a story about Mother's Day?

Well the start of lent dictates which Sunday Mother's Day is celebrated, and the start of lent is dictated by which date Easter Sunday falls since the end of lent finishes on Easter Saturday.

Lent is actually 46 days long (which is meant to represent the 40 days  Jesus spent in the wilderness being tempted by Satan), however Sundays are not included (hence 46 days and not 40 days)

Therefore in 2021, Easter Sunday falls on the 3rd April, and 46 days before this date was the 17th February (remember those pancakes on Shrove Tuesday last week!?).

So Mother's Day or Mothering Sunday falls on the fourth Sunday of lent - which in 2021 is the 14th March.

These days Mother's Day is seen as a celebration of British mums, but traditionally it was also a celebration of the Virgin Mary, especially as the month of May is generally recognised as the month of the Virgin Mary.

It began centuries ago - when Christians would travel to their Mother church (which would be the main church or cathedral in their area of worship), and working children who lived away from home would be given the day off to go and visit their mothers.

Gift giving in the UK

Often Mother's day sees an explosion of flower buying as people buy bouquets for their Mums or in some cases children will often buy a bunch of daffodils. Other gifts include Mother's Day hampers, cards, breakfast in bed or a nice meal out with their family.

One traditional Mother's Day celebration in the UK was the making (and eating) of Simnel cake, a spiced cake that would be made with dried fruit and topped with marzipan balls. This seems to have now become more an Easter cake than a Mother's Day cake.

Mother's Day In The USA

The origins of Mother's day in the US can be traced back to a lady called Anna Jarvis.

Her beloved Mother, Ann Jarvis, died in 1905, and Anna wanted to find a way to honour her Mother (and all Mothers). 

Her Mother Ann Jarvis had started a committee in 1868, which tried to establish a "Mother's Friendship Day", which she saw as a way to help families reunite after the American Civil War. Unfortunately she died before it became a recognised as a national holiday.

Spurred on by her Mother's work, on the second anniversary of her Mother's death, Anna Jarvis held a tribute service in her Mother's church.

On the 10th May 1908, Anna Jarvis sent out 500 white carnations (her Mother's favourite flower) from the church where her Mother taught Sunday school, to be worn by the sons and daughters to honour their own Mothers.

Anna made it her mission to celebrate Mother's Day across the United States, and wrote countless letters to congress, whilst also creating campaigns to draw attention to Mother's day both at home and abroad. In 1912 she trademarked both "Mother's Day" and "The second Sunday in May".

This became a full time role and her perseverance was rewarded when congress, in 1914, officially approved that Mother's day would be a holiday celebrated on the second Sunday of May each year.

Gift giving in the US

Mother's day celebrations are very similar in the US to the UK, with breakfast in bed, cards and small gifts all popular. Mother's day gift baskets, meals out with the family and relaxing activities are also popular.

Mother's Day In India

Another country that celebrates Mother's day on the second Sunday of May, India's celebrations are similar to both the UK and the USA.

Mothers receive cards and presents from their children, as well as the cooking her favourite foods.

There is also a festival celebrated by Indian Hindus called Durga Puja, which takes place in October.

This celebrates the "Divine Mother" goddess Durga and last for 10 days, during which time people fast, feast, pray, sing, dance and perform cultural dramas.

Mother's Day In Australia

Again this is celebrated on the second Sunday of May.

The most popular flowers sent to Mums in Australia are Chrysanthemums and carnations. Often the colour of the carnation people wear on Mother's Day can indicate if someone's mum is alive or deceased, with coloured carnations representing mums who are still alive, and white carnations being worn by those people whose Mothers are no longer alive.

Mother's Day In France

Long before the official French Mother's Day celebration was established, Napoleon had tried to create a Mother's Day celebration at the turn of the 19th Century, however this just didn't catch on.

The next attempt to create a Mother's Day celebration was made by the city of Lyon, which held it's own Mother's Day celebrations to honour women who had losts their sons to the First World War.

However it wasn't until 1950, when the Fête des Mères became officially recognised as a holiday celebration on the 24th May.

The actual date of Fête des Mères varies every year, since the celebration also coincides with when the Pentecost falls (the Christian festival celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples of Jesus after his ascension into Heaven), this sees the date vary from late May, through to early June.

French Mums usually see their sons and daughters waiting on them all day, doing chores around the house, receiving gifts and finally finishing the day with a big meal.

Mother's Day In Canada

Another Mother's day celebration that takes place on the second Sunday of May.

Celebration activities include going out for the day, usually for a meal. All the family pitching in to do all the chores to let Mum relax, as well as cards and gifts including Mother's day gift baskets, cookies and cakes.

Some sons & daughters will also wear carnations in their Mother's honour.

Mother's Day In Mexico

Mexico is one of the few countries that celebrates Mother's Day on a specific DATE not on a Sunday, with their annual celebrations taking place on the 10th May.

This year, this means Mexicans are celebrating Mother's day on a Monday.

Whilst celebrations of Mother's date back to pre-columbian times, the modern day Mother's day celebrations started back in 1922, when Rafael Alducin, a journalist, having seen the US tradition taking hold after the work of Anna Jarvis, kicked off a nationwide movement to pay tribute to all Mothers across Mexico.

So why do Mexicans celebrate Mother's day on the 10th of May (and not the second Sunday of May like many countries)?

This goes back to the very early celebrations from 1922.

People's pay day was the 10th of the month, therefore holding the celebration on "pay day" meant people could afford a little more, buying gifts for their mums or taking them out for a nice meal.

Also, whilst May mirrors the US celebration month, in Mexico the entire month of May is devoted to the Virgin Mary, the most famous mother in history.

The mexican title for Mother's Day is Día de la Madre, and families hire bands to come and perform at their homes, with Mums requesting their favourite songs, and being treated to serenades from children who sing "LAS MAÑANITAS".

Flowers are a popular gift given to Mums, but the biggest part of the celebration is food.

A traditional breakfast of tamales and atole, a hot drink made from corn, is usually served. Other dishes throughout the day might include enchiladas, quesadillas, barbacoa, pozole and sopes.

Mother's Day In Thailand

In 1976, the Thai government made the 12th August Thailand's official Mother's day holiday celebration.

This was the birthday of Her Majesty Sirikit, the Queen of Thailand, who is considered the Mother to all her Thai subjects.

It remains the national holiday with countrywide fireworks and candle-lighting celebrations taking place.

Mother's Day In Indonesia

Indonesia's Mother's day celebration was officially recognised by the Indonesian president in 1953.

It falls on the anniversary of the First Indonesian Women's Congress (1928), which was the 22nd December.

This first governmental body meeting is still considered a pivotal occasion, launching many organised women's movements across Indonesia.

The holiday itself celebrates the contributions of women to Indonesian society, rather than just Mothers.

Mother's Day In Bolivia

Another country to celebrate Mother's Day on a specific date, the origins of Mother's day celebrations in Bolivia date back to the early 19th century.

At the time Bolivia was struggling to gain independence from Spain, and many battles were taking place.

This saw many of the country's fathers, sons and husbands killed or injured on the battlefields.

On the 27th May 1812, one group of women from Cochabamba refused to stand idly by, instead they banded together to fight the Spanish army on Coronilla Hill.

Though hundreds died in the battle, the legacy of their contribution to gaining independence lives on thanks to a national law passed in the 1920s, making the day on which the Heroinas of Coronilla took to the streets, the nations Mother's Day.

That's our round up of Mother's Day across the world - but how will you be celebrating this year?