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The meaning of Mothers Day around the globe

Sean MurphyComment

Did you know that Mother’s Day is now celebrated worldwide? Here are some interesting facts on how other countries celebrate it:

Argentina. It is customary to honor mothers with dinners, poems and special gestures of attention. Children write letters in school or make cards and crafts to take home. Husbands cook and clean and look after the family, allowing the mother to relax and enjoy the day. Moms are almost certain to receive flowers, cards, candy, jewelry or an unexpected surprise.

France. Inspired by American soldiers in World War I, France celebrated Mother’s Day first in 1918. The Minister of the Interior created the official day in 1920, declaring December 19 La Fete de Meres, Mothers’ Day. The focus then was on the re-population of France following the high rate of attrition from WWI (known in France as the Great War). Mothers with four or five children were awarded a bronze medal; those with six or seven children would receive a silver medal, and eight or more offspring garnered the gold. This tradition was abandoned when a more modern version of Mother’s Day came from the Vichy government, which on May 25, 1945, instituted the National Day of Mothers. Today, a common gift is a cake shaped to resemble a bouquet of flowers, along with candies, flowers, cards and perfumes.

India. A westernized version of Mother’s Day is officially observed on May 10, though cities and cultural centers tend to celebrate it more than the smaller settlements. On this day, mothers receive flowers, a prepared meal, cards or a phone call.

Apart from the modern version of Mother’s Day, Hindus have long celebrated a multi-day festival in October called Durga Puja. As the ancient Greeks honored their earth goddess, the Hindu holiday praises their divine mother, Durga. This ancient festival has evolved into one of the biggest events in India. Families spend weeks preparing food and gifts for friends, and cleaning and decorating their houses for parties.

Mexico. In 1922, a journalist Rafael Alducín wrote an article advocating the celebration of Mother’s Day in Mexico. Though the practice had already spread to parts of Mexico, Alducín’s article led to widespread observance of the holiday, and May 10 is now the universal day of celebration of “Dia de las Madres.” Celebrations include starting the morning with a song sung to the mother in the morning, followed by a family breakfast or brunch. Typically, mothers will receive flowers, chocolates, or sentimental cards (May 10 is the largest day for sending cards in Mexico).

United Kingdom. Like the rest of Europe, England and Ireland observed the mid-Lent holiday and honored and decorated their “Mother Church,” the church where they were baptized. The church eventually extended the observation to honor all mothers. The English called this Mothering Sunday and, in the 1700s they observed it by taking a break from the fasting and penitence of Lent and having a family feast. Mothering Sunday fell out of practice in the early 1900s, but the tradition was reinstated after the end of WWII, inspired largely by the United States. Today the UK’s Mother’s Day continues in much the same way as the old tradition, with cards and dinners in honor of Mom.

Canada. Canada was one of the first nations to pick up the U.S. version of Mother’s Day, making it a national holiday in 1909. The customs largely reflect those of its southern neighbor, although in Canada there seems to be an added emphasis on doing chores for the mother and cooking her supper.

China. While China’s Mother’s Day is based primarily on the practices of the United States, it is interesting to note that most Chinese names begin with a character signifying mother in honor of one’s maternal heritage.

Denmark. In Denmark, dining out to lunch is a popular Mother’s Day pastime. The day is called Mors Dag.

Ethiopia. Mother’s Day in Ethiopia occurs in mid-fall when the rainy season ends. Called “Antrosht,” Ethiopians celebrate by making their way home when the weather clears for a large celebration. For the feast, the children bring ingredients for a traditional hash recipe, which the mother prepares. After the meal, the mothers and daughters ritually anoint themselves with butter and dance, while the men sing songs in honor of family and heroes. This cycle of feasting and celebration lasts two or three days.

Italy. The Italians celebrate La Festa della Mamma with a big feast and a cake made in the shape of a heart. Typically, Italian schoolchildren will make something to bring home to their mothers, and the family will take care of the chores for the day.

Singapore. Singapore’s Mother’s Day places a heavy emphasis giving gifts, including spa packages, vacuums, hampers, jewelry and flowers.

Sweden. Sweden’s Mother’s Day, which takes place on the last Sunday in May, has a strong charitable focus: the Swedish Red Cross sells small plastic flowers leading up to the holiday, and the proceeds raised are given to poor mothers and their children.

Maybe some of these other traditions will inspire you. I for one know that my mom loves hydrangeas, and I won’t stray from our tradition of a huge vase of hydrangeas anytime soon. She deserves it.