Mother’s Day In Context: Celebrating Mothers Around The World


On the second Sunday in May, American’s take the day to celebrate the women who bore them, raised them and most likely to have driven them to psychoanalysis:  our Moms!

It’s a relatively young tradition as far as those go in the U.S. – and one that is typically seen as a commercial holiday.  But despite our self-centered belief that everything we do in American stems from some sort of consumer culture-based invention, this Anthropologist can safely say that it wasn’t the almighty dollar that created this holiday which has been a mainstay in much of the developed world  (and inspired by ancient cultures) for quite some time and continues to spread throughout many global cultures.

Here is a great (and short) video that talks about the U.S. origins of Mother’s Day as well as our consumer culture customs:

There is also lots of great information out there on Mother’s day traditions around the world to help provide even more context.  Here is some conversation about Mother’s day customs from (out of Harrisonburg VA, sourced from  Suffice to say, the consumer piece is catching on but as far as good intentions go, I give this holiday a thumbs up for prioritizing an official recognition of the importance of motherhood –  because for better or worse, we wouldn’t be here without Mom

Mother’s Day Traditions Around the World

Mother’s Day is celebrated in different ways around the world. Every year as May approaches, sons and daughters around the world plan on celebrating their mothers.

Read how other countries honor their mothers through their own traditions below.

Mother’s Day in US: Here in the United States Mother’s Day is a national holiday and is celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm. On this day people reflect on the importance of mothers in their life and thank them for their unconditional love and support. Mother’s Day is celebrated in USA in a big way and has been commercialized to a great extent. It is considered as the next big day after Christmas and Valentines Day. Phone lines record a heavy traffic and card sales reaches its peak and restaurants are filled to their maximum capacity. Traditions for this day generally include things like breakfast in the bed, giving flowers, cards or gifts, and treating them to a meal.

Mother’s Day Traditions in other Countries:

Mother’ s Day in Australia: Mother’s Day falls on the same day in Australia as it does in the United States and is celebrated in a similar fashion. There is a tradition of wearing carnation on Mother’s Day in Australia (as is in the US). A colored carnation signifies that a person’s mother is living while a white carnation is used to honor a deceased mother. Besides their own mothers, children honor their grandmothers and other women who love and care for them as a mother does. Mother’ s Day in Australia. In Australia, Mothers Day is celebrated with lot of enthusiasm and joy. It falls on the same day as in US – on the second Sunday in the month of May and is celebrated in a similar fashion as in US. People of Australia take Mothers Day as an opportunity to express gratitude to their mother. Children show love to their moms by gifting flowers and cards to them. Just as in US there is a tradition of wearing carnation on Mothers Day in Australia. A colored carnation signifies that a person’s mother is living while a white carnation is used to honor a deceased mother. Besides their own mothers children honor their grand mothers and other women who love and care for them as a mother does. Children ponder over the role of mothers in their lives and acknowledge the hardships their mother go through while raising them up. As a mark of respect children pamper their mother on Mothers Day by treating them with breakfast on bed and with gifts and cakes. In Australia, Mother’s Day has been commercialized to a great degree as it is in US. Marketers try to play on the emotional aspect of the festival to sell their goods, and card manufacturers and florists particularly see a high business.

Mother’s Day in Canada: In Canada, cards and flowers are the most commonly used methods of expressing love for moms. Mothers Day is a the most popular festival after Christmas and Valentines Day. Just as in USA, Mother’s Day in Canada is celebrated in the second Sunday in the month of May. As Mother’s Day is a festival with strong emotional value, it has been commercialized to a large extent with compelling advertising strategies in the technologically advanced country of Canada.

Mother’s Day in France: The French do not celebrate Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May as the Americans do. Instead, mom’s special day is reserved for the last Sunday in the month of May. A family dinner is the norm, and traditionally the mother being honored is presented with a cake that looks like a bouquet of flowers. Consider making your mother a flower bouquet cake on the last Sunday in May and celebrate Mother’s Day with the people of France.

Mother’s Day in India: Mother’s Day Celebration in India are slowly catching. The concept of celebrating Mother’s Day on the second Sunday of May is very new in India and it can be said that in a time span of less than a decade, Mother’s Day has been a great success. It is a remarkable achievement for a foreign festival to make its presence felt in the vast and culturally diverse country like India. Indians too take Mother’s Day as a time too reflect on the importance of mothers in their life. They take it is time to think about all the pains their mother took while they were sick, the hardships she went through in bringing them up and all the sacrifices she made so that they lead a better life. In the capital city of Delhi, Mothers Day is celebrated in a big way and has been commercialized to a great extent. Big companies launch various women oriented products on the day and restaurants try to lure people with attractive advertisements. Media too creates a big hype about the day with special programs and features. Looking at the fast pace at which the excitement for Mothers Day is growing it will not be long when the Mother’s Day will be noted as the national festival of India.

Mother’s Day in Ireland: In Ireland, Mother’s Day is not celebrated on same day as in US. Mother’s Day celebrations in Ireland take place on the fourth Sunday in the Christian fasting month of Lent. The history of celebrating Mothering Sunday, or Mother’s Day in Ireland, can be traced to the medieval practice where children from poor families were sent to work as domestic servants and apprentices to work with the rich. Once in the year in the middle of the Lent these children were given a day off to visit their ‘Mother Church’ and worship Virgin Mary. After visiting the Mother Church or Cathedral of their home town these children visited their mothers and presented them with flowers they picked along the way. On Mother’s Day, people in Ireland present flowers and cards to their mothers to express love and gratitude.

Mother’s Day in Mexico: In the North American country of Mexico, Mother’s Day is celebrated on a fixed day of May 10 as opposed to the Mother’s Day in US that falls on the second Sunday in the month of May. Mother’s Day in Mexico is celebrated in a colorful fashion. Children honor their mothers and thank them for their efforts in bringing them up and According to a custom in Mexico, sons and daughters make themselves present in the house on the eve of Mother’s Day on May 9. The day is celebrated with gusto as churches in Mexico organize special mass. The highpoint of the event is the orchestra which plays “las mañanitas” and distribution of ‘tamales’ and ‘atole’, the traditional early-morning meal to all local mothers.

Mother’s Day in New Zealand: In New Zealand Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in the month of May. The manner of celebrating Mother’s Day in New Zealand is much the same as that in US. The festival of Mother’s Day has turned out to be a big day for the people of New Zealand. There is a big euphoria over the day and people celebrate the day by going out for picnics and dinners. Markets see a busy time as people make it a point to buy gifts for their mothers, grandmothers and friends and relatives who are mothers. Flowers and cards business particularly flourish at this time of the year.

Mother’s Day in South Africa: In South Africa, Mothers Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in the month of May. People of South Africa celebrate Mother’s Day in its true spirit by acknowledging the importance of mothers in their lives and thanking them profusely for all their love and care. Young children present their mothers with homemade gifts while the elder ones buy gifts for their mothers. In South Africa, Mother’s Day is taken as an opportunity to thank not just mothers but also grandmothers and women who are like mothers.

Mother’s Day in Spain: Unlike the United States and several other countries, Mother’s Day in Spain is celebrated on December 8. Spaniards pay tribute not only to their own mothers on this day, but also to the Virgin Mary. Mother’s Day in Spain includes religious celebrations across the country. As December comes this year, consider taking a moment to honor your mother on December 8 with the Spaniards of the world.

Mother’s Day in the UK: Mother’s Day in UK is celebrated with great excitement and verve but it does not fall on the same date as in US. In UK, Mother’s Day celebrations takes place on the fourth Sunday in the month of Lent. Since the Lent days are not fixed, the date for Mother’s Day changes every year. Mother’s Day came to be celebrated in UK in 17th century as Mothering Sunday, much before the custom began in US. The tradition of celebrating Mother’s Day began much earlier in England than it started in USA. In fact, England was the first country in the world to dedicate a day for mothers as early as 1600s. They called this day for mothers as ‘Mothering Sunday’. The tradition of Mothering Sunday stopped with the advent of Industrial Revolution in England when the working conditions and life pattern changed. In the present time, original meaning of Mothering Sunday has been lost and has taken the form and name of Mother’s Day in US. In UK, there is a tradition of making a rich almond cake for mothers called ‘Mothering Cake’ or ‘Simnel Cake’ (seen to the left) on Mother’s Day.

Categories: Anthropology, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Culture, Holidays, Rituals, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Mother’s Day In Context: Celebrating Mothers Around The World

  1. Interesting video! “Likened them to goddesses” haha

  2. Whew! To think we just escaped having a PEACE HOLIDAY back in the early 20th century. Can’t have that, it might lead to some rhetoric that would threaten our major industries!

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