Five things you may not know about Mother’s Day

28 Mar 2018

Did you know Mother’s Day wasn’t actually founded by a mother? Or that historically, the day didn’t even celebrate our long-suffering Mums? Read on for more fascinating trivia about one of the year’s most special holidays.

WORDS: Jessica Zoiti

Who made you steaming bowls of chicken broth when you were sick? More than likely, it was your Mum. And when you were broken hearted and unable to pull yourself out of bed? We bet it was Mum who came to your rescue yet again.

In just a few short weeks, we’ll be lavishing our long-suffering mothers with love and gifts to say thanks for their undying devotion and selflessness. In our opinion, they are more than deserving of a day dedicated just to them.

But while today we associate Mother’s Day with flower bouquets and brunch, the celebration has a long and fascinating history, and not all of it is rosy. So this year, while you’re busy impressing Mum with a heart-felt-card, keep in mind these interesting facts about the day designed just to celebrate her.


1. Originally, Mother’s Day wasn’t a literal celebration of mothers.

The origins of Mother’s Day can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who held celebrations to honour the mother goddesses, Rhea and Cybele.

In more modern times, the holiday is an incarnation of the Christian festival known as Mothering Sunday. Celebrated for centuries across the UK and Europe on the fourth Sunday in Lent, Mothering Sunday was a time when the community would return to their ‘mother church’ (the main church in their town and village) for a special service honouring the Virgin Mary. Over time, it became customary for children to present their own mothers with flowers and other gifts. In the UK, Mother’s Day is still celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent.


2. Mother’s Day wasn’t actually founded by a mother

In Australia, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in May, as it is in America where the holiday began in the early 1900s as a result of the efforts of Anna Jarvis.

Anna Jarvis was the daughter of Ann Reeves Jarvis, a social activist who, in the years before the Civil War, helped established Mother’s Day Work Clubs across the US to teach women how to properly care for their children. Following Ann’s death in 1905, Anna conceptualised Mother’s Day as a way of honouring the sacrifices all American mothers made for their children. The first Official Mother’s Day celebration was held in a local church in Grafton, West Virginia.

Anna Jarvis never married, and never actually became a mother herself.


3. The meaning of flowers

A quarter of all global flower sales happen on Mother’s Day. The most traditional flowers to give are carnations which, according to Roman legend, were first created from the tears of Mary as she wept at the feet of Jesus the day he was crucified. If you do choose to follow tradition, remember that pink and red carnations are for mothers who are still alive while white are for those who have passed away.


4. The business of Mother’s Day

Since its inception, businesses and organisations (including charities) have seen Mother’s Day as a massive ‘pay day’ opportunity.

According to estimates from the Australian Retailers Association, in 2016 Australians spent over $2 billion celebrating mothers, including around $200 million on flowers and $300 million on dining out. These figures make Mother’s Day one of Australia’s biggest spending occasions, second only to Christmas.

The founder of Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis, never profited from the day, despite being offered ample opportunities. Rather, she went broke using what funds she had to battle against the holiday’s commercialisation.


5. Mother’s Day around the globe

Like America, many countries celebrate Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May including Australia, Canada, Brazil, Japan, and more recently, India. But others, such as the UK and Ethiopia, have held fast to their own culturally significant Mother’s Day date.

In Ethiopia, Mother’s Day is actually a three-day celebration occurring at the end of the rainy season. After sharing a traditional meal, mothers and daughters then cover themselves with butter and dance while the men sing songs that honour the family.

The former Yugoslavia boasts one of the strangest traditions. Celebrated in December, Mother’s Day sees children sneaking into their parents’ bedroom and tying up their mum. She can only be freed by presenting her kids with gifts and treats.

In France, the first Mother’s Day was held in 1918 and awarded women for re-populating the country – mothers of four children or more received medals, and gold medals went to mothers with eight or more children. Today France celebrates on the last Sunday in May with mother’s receiving typical gifts such as cards, food and flowers.


Looking for winning ways to spoil your mum? From cookbooks and fresh bouquets of flowers to chocolates and gourmet pantry staples, The Black Truffle has a gift for every mum.