What is the History of Mother’s Day?

Explore the rich history of Mother’s Day, tracing its origins from ancient traditions to its global celebration today.

  • Release Date: 20 May 2024
  • Author: Speaker Agency
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Mother’s Day is a day celebrated by billions of people worldwide and is a day to celebrate the powerful influence and never-ending love of all mothers. It is necessary to prove the historical roots of this famous holiday before we can celebrate it annually. The origin of Mother’s Day is an exciting and heartening tale that stretches from the ancient societies that celebrated motherly divinities to the contemporary worldwide feast. Let’s go through the history of this special day.

Origins of Mother's Day: A Historical Perspective

How did Mother's Day start? Mother's Day history began in ancient cultures when the maternal figures were revered and honored through the various festivals and rituals. Cybele was a festival of spring celebrated in honor of Rhea, the mother of all gods. Similarly, the Romans used to commemorate the Hilaria festival in honor of their mother goddess, Cybele. The past traditions formed the foundation for the present Mother’s Day celebration.

Mothering Sunday evolved in Christianity as a day dedicated to the Virgin Mary and all mothers. Celebrated on the fourth Sunday of the Lent, it was a day when the families gathered to honor the virtues of the mothers. However, the prevailing modern version of Mother’s Day was greatly inspired by the effort of Anna Jarvis, the American social worker who advocated for a unique day to honor mothers. Derived by the love of her own mother, Jarvis dedicated her life to lobbying for the establishment of Mother’s Day as an official holiday in America. Her relentless promotion made President Woodrow Wilson announce the second Sunday of May as Mother’s Day in 1914, which is the start of worldwide recognition of maternal love and sacrifice.

The Beginning: How Did Mother's Day Start and Spread Globally?

The modern tradition of Mother’s Day, as it is celebrated nowadays, began in the US in the early 20th century, mainly because of the efforts of Anna Jarvis. Inspired by the compassion and dedication of her mother, Jarvis initiated a movement for the establishment of a day for the celebration of mothers. The first official Mother’s Day was celebrated in 1908 in Grafton, West Virginia, where Jarvis conducted a memorial service for her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, who died three years earlier. This celebration triggered a lot of excitement and energy, and then, other state celebration events emerged.

Jarvis’ continued advocacy and the grassroots victories trickled down on the national leaders and politicians. Backed by many, the second week of May was proclaimed a national holiday by American President Woodrow Wilson. Starting in the United States, Mother’s Day quickly spread across the world, and other countries embraced the holiday and added their own practices and customs. Today, Mother’s Day is celebrated in many different ways in every corner of the globe with each country making its own unique addition to the day of honoring the maternal figures.   

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When Did Mother's Day Start? Timeline and Milestones

The history of Mother's Day is very interesting and filled with many memorable milestones and traditions that are still going on even today. Let's delve into the timeline that shaped this beloved holiday:

1908: The Birth of a Tradition

Grafton, West Virginia was the first place where the observation of Mother’s Day took place which was made possible by the relentless struggle of Anna Jarvis. The concept she came up with in honor of her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, led to the first formal record of celebrating motherly love and sacrifice.

1914: National Recognition

A turning point in the Mother’s Day story was the proclamation by President Woodrow Wilson that the second Sunday of May would be the day for celebrating mothers in the USA. This executive order declared Mother’s Day as an official national holiday, thus setting the stage for its universal observance.

1920s: Global Expansion

The spirit of Mother’s Day went global and became universal as it reached all nations in the world. This tradition became popular in Canada, Mexico, and other countries in the 1920s, with each adopting their own customs to celebrate maternal figures.

1940s-1950s: Commercialization Takes Hold

In the middle of the 20th century, the character of Mother’s Day began to transform into a commercial holiday. Greeting card companies, florists, and retailers used the holiday spirit to sell gifts and expressions of love.

21st Century: A Remaining of Tradition

Today, Mother’s Day continues to change and is adapting to the changing environment and traditions. As a consequence, many new traditions and customs have been created worldwide, which represent the wide variety of honoring and celebrating mothers.

The growth of Mother’s Day from a small West Virginia town celebration to a revered global event is an ongoing testimony to the enduring power of maternal love and the need to say thank you to the women who touch our lives. Every year, we celebrate this day, let us not forget the meaning of motherhood and the irreplaceable role of maternal figures all over the world.  

Evolution of Mother's Day: Changes Over the Years

With time, Mother’s Day has become a yearly homage to maternal love. Having been initiated as a campaign under the activities of Anna Jarvis and becoming a day of commercialization, the holiday has greatly evolved. Nevertheless, even with these changes, the thought of celebrating mothers and other maternal figures has not changed. Mother’s Day transforms with the changes in society, with new customs and traditions being created to reflect the changing roles of women and family dynamics.

Global Spread of Mother's Day: Cultural Impact and Adoption

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The internationalization of Mother’s Day attests to its strong cultural impact on countries, with every country in the process adding its own unique customs to the observance. Across America, Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world, Mother’s Day is a worldwide celebration that honors motherly figures and thanks them for their love and sacrifice. The variety of ways of its celebration proves the diversity of the world cultures, even though the reason behind the holiday is very the same, and is a warm tribute to mothers. This shared celebration makes Mother’s Day a positive influencer, enabling people to come together in a common expression of gratitude for motherly love.

Tracing Roots: The Origin Story of Mother’s Day

It has ancient origins in Greek and Roman cultures, where maternal figures and deities were celebrated. The modern celebration of the occasion, however, started with Anna Jarvis in the early 20th century. Influenced by her mother’s work of community service, Jarvis worked for a day that would be specifically dedicated to mothers. In 1908, she organized a memorial service for her late mother in West Virginia. She succeeded so that in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Mother's Day as a national holiday. It has come a long way since and has grown into a worldwide tribute of maternal love and admiration, which is a reflection of Jarvis’s sincere homage to her mother’s heritage.


Mother’s Day is still a tribute to the everlasting power of maternal love and human solidarity in the need to tell women who have made our lives better thank you. A small American tradition in the 20th century, Mother’s Day has become a worldwide phenomenon, serving as a constant reminder of the importance of our mothers, grandmothers, and all women in our lives. As we revere this well-loved custom, we should consider the priceless quality of motherly love and endeavor to honor and appreciate mothers in our lives not only on that one particular day but every day!

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