Sheet music published in 1917, several years after Mother’s Day became a national holiday in the United States and in the throes of World War I.
Library of Congress
Sheet music published in 1917, several years after Mother’s Day became a national holiday in the United States and in the throes of World War I.

Celebrating motherhood

Traditions vary, but celebrating the mothers in our lives is a global phenomenon

Beatriz Fantini is a professor emerita at SIT, where she worked for 50 years. She is a freelance writer and has published short stories in her native Bolivia and in Venezuela. Her husband, Alvino Fantini, is an SIT professor emeritus.

WEST DUMMERSTON-Mother's Day is probably one of the most popular holidays we celebrate. It is a special day to honor the most important person in a family.

My perspective, of course, might be old-fashioned, but I am 84 and was brought up in another era, one with different behaviors and different values. However, there are things that have not changed, and celebrating motherhood is one.

The origin of Mother's Day is believed to go back to the Romans and Greeks, who honored mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele.

Today, it is celebrated around the world on various dates. In England, the celebration used to be the fourth Sunday of Lent and was called Mothering Sunday.

The celebration originated in the United States. Three women were responsible.

Before the start of the Civil War, Ann Reeves Jarvis (from West Virginia) started Mother's Day Work Clubs designed to teach local women how to take care of their children. These clubs became very important and, in 1868, Jarvis created Mother's Friendship Day to reunite soldiers with mothers.

In 1870, Julia Ward Howe wrote the Mother's Day Proclamation to promote world peace, and she later called for it to be celebrated annually on June 2.

By 1912, thanks to the persistence of Jarvis's daughter, Anna Maria Jarvis, Mother's Day had become a holiday in many states. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson officially declared Mother's Day to be a national holiday, celebrated on the second Sunday in May.

* * *

Countries around the world celebrate the day in different ways. For a long time, many families started the day by serving Mom breakfast in bed to give her a break. However, times have changed and cultural habits vary, so this tradition might no longer be the case.

In today's world, the traditional family role of the mother is not limited to being a woman or spouse. Two people, not even necessarily women, now might be assuming family household responsibilities.

Yet the celebration of Mother's Day is pretty strong. Even the tradition of carnations for mothers - red for those who are still alive or white for those who are deceased - is practiced in many places.

As with any other holiday, commercial interests also guide activities. It is believed that, second to Christmas, Mother's Day is the biggest seller for greeting card manufacturers like Hallmark and Gibson. And of course, flower shops and specialty stores see this as a money-making activity.

The one commonality we definitely have with other countries is the restaurant business - again, in an effort to give Mom a free day, lunches or dinners at restaurants are in order.

* * *

And why do all this for Mom? Let's imagine we needed to hire one. The following might be the required qualifications and expected responsibilities.

Position: Mother (no experience needed)

Required qualifications: patience, flexibility, ability to improvise, tolerance for ambiguity, ability to serve as arbiter, nursing skills, counseling skills, selflessness, good management skills, fast learner, spirit of sacrifice, ability to please everyone, good listener.

Responsibilities: cook, clean, wash clothes, supervise homework, entertain children's classmates, organize activities, buy children's clothes and school supplies, drive children to extracurricular activities and/or school, take children to doctor's appointments, make sure spouse's clothes are OK.

Compensation: Heaven!

Any applicants?

So, let's celebrate and remember mothers.

Happy Mother's Day to all those fantastic women, dead or alive.

This Voices Essay was submitted to The Commons.

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