10 May 2010

Mother's Day history has some surprises

Tracing the Tribe apologizes for this day-after post, but we were out celebrating!

The history of Mother's Day holds some interesting twists.

A story by Connie Wieck in the Terra Haute TribStar mentions the earliest Mother's Day celebrations of ancient Greece as well as Mothering Sunday (England, 1600s).

In the US, it dates to 1872. The lyricist for the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," Julia Ward Howe, began organizing a day for peace in Boston.

In 1907, schoolteacher Anna Jarvis began encouraging the establishment of a national holiday and asked her mother's church to celebrate it on her mother's death anniversary, which was the second Sunday in May.

Jarvis and her supporters wrote to all sorts of leaders including clergymen, politicians and businessmen to gather support for the idea. By 1911, nearly every US state celebrated the new holiday, and it was declared a national holiday by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914.

Other countries celebrate on the same date, including Denmark, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Australia and Belgium.

Although the holiday caught on, so did its commercialism - why is that a surprise? - and Jarvis became bitter and disillusioned. So disillusioned, in fact, that she and her sister spent their family fortune trying to cancel the holiday. She died unmarried, childless and penniless.
As she put it: “A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother — and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment!”
Today, the holiday is a great commercial success. Wieck's statistics, from IBIS World, show Americans spend $2.6 billion on flowers, $1.53 on pampering gifts (spa treatments, etc.), $68 million on greeting cards. Oh yes, how could we forget that in 2008, jewelry for Mother's Day accounted for 7.8% of the jewelry industry's annual revenue.

Are you angry or upset when your family buys you flowers, gifts, jewelry or treats you to brunch on this day? Do the commercial aspects of the day worry or annoy you?

Read Wieck's complete story at the link above.

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