History of Mother’s Day


Although there had been previous efforts to start a mother’s day associated with pacifistic mothers during the American Civil War, some organized by Anna’s mother, it was not until the efforts of Anna Jarvis in the early 20th century that this celebration caught on widely. Carnations, flying of the American flag, and church-going are associated with this holiday. White carnations were the favorite flower of Anna Jarvis’ mother and 500 of them were delivered at the first celebration in 1908 by Anna Jarvis. Churches would traditionally distribute white carnations to mothers on this day, but due to the shortage of white carnations, florists developed the idea of a red carnation if one’s mother was living, white if not. This was promoted widely and is now a common part of the celebration.

Ancient History


Christian traditions

During Christian times in the UK and parts of Europe on the fourth Sunday in Lent people would return to their local “mother church” for a special service before Easter, known as Mothering Sunday. In some Catholic and Orthodox countries, it is associated with St. Mary and is tied to the day that she presented her son Jesus Christ in the Temple of Jerusalem (February 2). In Eastern Europe, it is sometimes associated with International Women’s Day.


So, why did Anna Jarvis, who remained unmarried and childless all her life, oppose the very holiday that she had started to honor her mother? Within nine years of the first official Mother’s Day in the US, it had become so commercialized that she spent the remainder of her life and wealth fighting what she believed was an abuse of the celebration of Mother’s Day. In 1948 she was arrested for protesting against this commercialization saying she “wished she would have never started the day because it became so out of control.”

  • A huge revenue generator for American jewelers
  • A boon to American florists: $2.6 billion
  • A specialist gift day including clothes and accessories: $1.5 billion
  • The mother of all greeting cards holiday: $68 million



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