How did Mothers' Day Begin?

wiseGEEK Writing Contest

Who invented Mother’s Day? You’d be forgiven for thinking are that it was the Business Community, in order to sell the twee soft toys that they did not manage to flog on Valentine’s Day and at Easter. Let’s face it, not too many gifts are given on the Woman’s Day of the Feminist Sorority…. Topical celebrations have been traced back as far as Ancient Greece, honouring Rhea, the sister and wife of Cronus. Rhea was the Fertility goddess, Titaness daughter of Uranus (Sky) and Gaia (Earth), identified with Cybele of ancient Asia Minor, and the Roman Magna Mater deorum Idaea, Ops. She was usually depicted on a chariot drawn by two lions, uncannily similar to Cybele. Some Greeks said that Rhea had deserted her original home in Crete and fled to the mountain wilds of Asia Minor to escape from Cronus. Like Isis of Ancient Egypt, Rhea was considered the archetypical wife and mother. Cronus had castrated their father Uranus, and re-imprisoned the Hecatonchires, the Gigantes and the Cyclopes in Tartarus. Kampe, ("crooked") a chthonic dragon with a woman's head and torso and a scorpion-like tail, guarewd them. Zeus killed her when he rescued the Cyclopes for help in the battle with the Titans. Cronus and Rhea ascended the throne as King and Queen of the gods; their reign was The Golden Age. Rhea's symbols are the moon and the swan, a gentle animal that is however a redoubtable opponent. Cronos had a terrible habit; he swallowed his newborn children, because Gaia and Uranus had told him that what he had done to his father would be done to him by his own son He was taking no chances. Rhea handed Cronos a swaddled stone, and hid Zeus in a cave on Mount Ida in Crete. Here the storyline diverges. He was either raised by Gaia, or the nymph Adamanthea, who fed him goat milk. Cronus ruled over the earth, the heavens, and the sea, so the poor child spent toddlerhood dangling on a rope from a tree, suspended between earth, sea, and sky and therefore invisible to his father. A third version of the story has him suckled by a goat named Amalthea; Rhea appointed the Curetes and Dactyls to guard him. They did this by dancing, shouting, clashing their spears and shields, and clapping their hands so that Cronus would not hear the him cry. Zeus grew up and forced his father to disgorge the other children in reverse order of swallowing. Some versions have it that Methis administered an emetic (of course!), and others say that Zeus cut open Chronos’s stomach. The stone, still present, was set down at Pytho. Zeus released the brothers of Cronus, the Gigantes, the Hecatonchires and the Cyclopes. History repeated itself when Zeus swallowed Metis to prevent the birth of her child, Athene. However, she was unscathed, since one of the other gods wounded him in the head.

Just as the Romans had the festival of Hilaria, when they celebrated on the Ides of March by making offerings in the temple of Cybele, the Greeks feted to Rhea seek her blessings and appease her, in Spring.

In the British Isles and Celtic Europe, there was a festival, Spring Mother’s Day, which was celebrated in honour of the goddess Brigid, who brought the gift of the sun's growing light and the abundance of the earth.

These festivals differed in concept from the present day Mother’s Day in that they celebrated the concept of motherhood rather than giving honour and respect to the immediate mothers, and their value to the community.

Christians transmuted all these festivals into one to honour the Madonna.Held on the fourth Sunday of Lent, by the 1600’s this became known as Mothering Sunday. Workers would be allowed to visit their mothers, besides attending church services in honour of the Virgin Mary. Mothering Day cakes were important parts of the celebration. This practice petered out in the 19th century, but was revived again after World War II by the American servicemen. In 1872, Julia Ward Howe, the social reformer and poet who penned the words to the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," suggested a Day for Peace. She organised Mother’s Day meetings in Boston Massachusetts, every year. Meanwhile, in West Virginia, Ana Maria Reeves Jarvis wanted to improve the sanitation in her town; she organised Mother’s Work Days. During the Civil War she remained neutral, her organizations helping soldiers in need on either side. Eventually she worked towards establishing "Mother's Friendship Days", to mitigate the scars of the Civil War. Her daughter, Ana wanted a nationally recognized Mother's Day. She persuaded the Parish priest of her mother's church in Grafton, West Virginia, to celebrate Mother's Day on the anniversary of her mother's death, that year the second Sunday in May. She began the tradition of wearing a carnation in honour or memory of our mothers; coloured if she is still alive, white if she has died. Jarvis, a schoolteacher, began a crusade in 1907 to make Mother's Day a national event. She and her supporters wrote to ministers, politicians and businessmen. By 1911, Mother's Day was being celebrated in almost every state in the country, and a year later, the Mother's Day International Association was set up. On May 9, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson made the official proclamation that Mother's Day would be a national holiday to be celebrated annually on the second Sunday in May. Ana Jarvis felt cheated when she realised that the national holiday she had been instrumental in creating had become besmirched with commercialization. In 1923 she filed a lawsuit to stop a Mother's Day festival. She was arrested for disturbing the peace at a war mothers' convention where white carnations were being sold for fund-raising. From there it was downhill all the way for Ana Jarvis. She died alone, in a sanatorium in 1948 – having told a reporter that she regretted ever initiating Mother's Day.

submitted by Tanja