By Mark Barnes
“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.”
The indoctrination of a holiday for moms began at an early age. With the intent of us learning through example, my father laid out a complex yearly plan and tried to involve us kids with every step. Through a presentation of flowers, a breakfast in bed or perhaps a Sunday brunch at some fancy restaurant for my mother, we learned that mom was supposed to be treated like a queen on this special day, once a year. We knew this because we were reminded at every opportunity by our father, grandparents, aunts and uncles. It seemed as if everyone was in on this.
As we got older it was clear that us kids needed to take the initiative. During grade school our teachers assisted us with this endeavor. Oftentimes they helped us make Mother’s Day cards. Or, if the art teacher got involved, perhaps an ashtray was crafted, despite the fact that hardly any mother that we knew smoked. Later, as teens, we were responsible for buying a card and maybe even cooking the breakfast, including the cleanup. Once we had moved out of the nest, a card and a phone call usually was about all we did.
What little we did was a whole lot more than mothers in the past usually got. In fact, it has been only a little over a century that the modern Mother’s Day has been celebrated. It is likely that your great, great, great grandmother never was honored with a Mother’s Day.
In 1908, an American woman named Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother. So pleased with herself, she began a campaign to make Mother’s Day a recognized holiday and by 1914 she had succeeded when President Woodrow Wilson established it as a national holiday.
Although Jarvis gets credit for establishing Mother’s Day, many others had established observances in the mid to late 1800s honoring mothers. Today, the United States and many other countries celebrate Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May. In the Middle East, however, most countries celebrate it on March 21, the vernal equinox. A few European countries such as Spain and Hungary celebrate it on the first Sunday in May while France and Sweden go for the last Sunday in May.
Only six years after establishing Mother’s Day the holiday had become a worldwide observance. However, Jarvis had become so disappointed with the commercialization of the holiday that she spent her inheritance to campaign against the holiday for the rest of her life. She was arrested for disturbing the peace while protesting the commercialization of the holiday she created. She died in 1948 penniless. She never married and had no children.