|Filial love is an emotion that none in the world is unaware of. While the love showered by parents is unconditional and matchless, the love given back by thoughtful children is blind and is an act of devotion. The enormous popularity of occasions like Mother's Day and Father's Day prove how overwhelming and powerful the love for one's parents can be.
The earliest origins of Mother's Day can be traced back to the ancient Grecian practice of worshipping Rhea, a divine being considered as "The Mother of the Gods" in Greek mythology, during the spring season. The custom of worshipping a mother figure can also be found in the 17th century tradition of honoring Mother Mary by the early Christians in England. The custom required people to pay a visit to the church of their native place. Even those living or working away from their homes had to come back on the 4th Sunday of Lent (the 40 day period leading up to Easter) to fulfill this tradition. Other than paying a visit to the native church, the occasion also gave those working away from their domicile an opportunity to come back to their homes and meet with their loved ones. Many poor villagers of England worked as servants for the rich at that time. Little children who worked far off as domestic servants could come back to visit their family members, especially their mothers. Many of them came back not only with offerings, but also small gifts, flowers and special cakes for their parents, specially the female ones. Any youth engaged in such act of duty was said to go 'amothering' and the cake intended for his mother was called the "mothering cake". This is possibly the reason behind the name 'Mothering Sunday' that the holiday came to be known as.
But the formation of a holiday dedicated to living mothers began with the efforts of social activist Julia Ward Howe who suggested the idea of a Mother's Day immediately after the American Civil War. Deeply disturbed by the horrors of the Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War, this lady tried to issue a manifesto for peace at international peace conferences in London and Paris in 1870. In fact, it was during the Franco-Prussian war in the 1870s that Julia single handedly began her mission for peace. In Boston, she composed a powerful plea that made an impassioned appeal to every woman of the nation to voice their protest against the war and bring an end to it. She translated this composition, regarded as the original Mothers' Day proclamation, into several languages and distributed it widely.
In 1872, she went to London to promote an international Woman's Peace Congress. There she expressed her desire of having a "Mother's Day for Peace", an occasion that was to be annually celebrated on June 2, in honor of peace, motherhood and womanhood. Her efforts bore some fruit when women in 18 cities in America held a Mother's Day for Peace gathering in 1873. Then on, Julia organized meetings every year at Boston on Mother's Peace Day and saw that the day was well-observed. But a decade later, the tradition slowly began to die when she devoted herself to other peacekeeping missions. Nonetheless, Julia Ward Howe is regarded as the pioneer of an occasion (Mother's Day for Peace) that was to be the precursor to the modern Mother's Day celebrations. As a recognition of her efforts and achievements, a stamp was issued in her honor in 1988.
It was Howe's idea that also influenced a young Appalachian homemaker named Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis. Inspired by Howe's efforts, Ann planned to improve sanitation through what she called "Mothers Friendship Day". Following Civil War, she threw herself to the service of her nation by organizing women to work for better sanitary conditions for both sides affected due to the battle. In 1868 she began work to reconcile Union and Confederate neighbors. In her Mothers Friendship Clubs, she taught the basics of nursing and sanitation to thousands of women.
When Ann died in Philadelphia on May 9, 1905, her daughter Anna missed her greatly. She felt children often neglected to appreciate their mother during their lifetime, something she herself felt guilty of. That is why, she intended to start a Mother's Day, an occasion that would make it customary for children to honor their mothers at least once during a year. She succeeded in her objective, when the Andrews Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia, where her mother worked for 20 years taking Sunday school classes, decided to hold a special church service on May 10, 1908, in honor of the departed lady. Despite this being a more or less private observance, it set the stage for the modern Mother's Day celebrations held in the honor of motherhood. Soon the occasion gained widespread popularity across the nation. On
December 12, 1912, the Mother's Day International Association was established to promote and encourage meaningful observances of the event.
Anna's dream was finally realized when President Woodrow Wilson issued the first Mother's day proclamation on May 9, 1914, and declared that the second Sunday of May was henceforth to be observed as Mother's Day, an occasion dedicated to honor all those mothers whose sons had died in war.
Slowly the occasion came to be observed as a holiday dedicated in honor of all mothers and motherhood. Today, it is a day that sees thousands of children appreciating their mothers efforts with warm hugs, "thank you"s flowers, cards, gifts and other tokens of affection. In the U.S., it is observed on the second Sunday of May. In some countries, the holiday is observed on different days and at entirely different times and the celebration even lasts for two days.
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