Ann Reeves Jarvisin really hated the idea of buying cards and other gifts for Mother’s Day — even though she founded the day to honor mothers and maternal bonds.
Jarvisin started campaigning to recognize mothers in 1908 out of love for her own, who cared for Civil War soldiers on both sides of the conflict. Six years later, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the second Sunday in May as a national holiday to honor mothers.
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But later Jarvisin felt Hallmark and other companies had “highjacked” Mother’s Day for profit.
She thought people should hand-write letters of love and gratitude to their mothers instead of buying something.
Even so, other countries and cultures have since adopted the U.S. secular idea of Mother’s Day. But it wasn’t by any means a novel idea. In fact, most major faith traditions have held similar celebrations or attitudes for centuries:
- Judaism: The 11th day of the Jewish month of Cheshvan honors the biblical matriarch Rachel. Unable to conceive for many years, Rachel became a symbol of hope, fertility and mercy as well as motherhood. In memory of her, Jewish schoolchildren craft gifts for their mothers on what has become an official Jewish Mother’s Day.
- Roman Catholic: Mother’s Day is strongly associated with revering Mary, the mother of Jesus. And in Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, special prayer services are held in honor of the Virgin Mary.
- Church of England: Churchgoers in England and Ireland have been celebrating “Mothering Sunday” since the 16th century. It grew from the idea that people who normally worship at the nearest parish should return to their home or “mother” church once a year. Employers started giving domestic servants (some as young as 10) the day off to visit their home church — and their mothers.
- Islam: Although Muslims don’t have a formal Mother’s Day, their faith requires them to spend time with and show gratitude and kindness to their mothers.
- Hinduism: Followers believe God creates, maintains and destroys the universe, but the power with which God performs this takes a female form. This power is worshiped as the Divine Mother. Thus Hindus are reverent to their mothers. When leaving or entering the house, children touch their mother’s feet.
- Buddhism: Followers believe no one is more worthy of honor and respect than your mother. “Mother” is always mentioned first when referring to one’s parents.
McNeal is senior staff chaplain and coordinator for faith community relations at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center and Advocate Eureka Hospital. Contact her at email@example.com.