Mother's Day is a celebration of mothers and motherhood traditionally celebrated on the 4th Sunday of Lent, as a Christian holiday throughout the UK and Europe.

However, Mother's Day began in the United States in the early 20th century and is not actually related to the Christian Mothering Sunday celebration. In the UK, however, Mothering Sunday is celebrated in the same way as Mother's Day is celebrated elsewhere.

This year, Mother's Day falls on Sunday 30th March.

Origins of Mothering Sunday

The celebration is a Christian holiday which originally began as a celebration of the mother church, not motherhood, during the sixteenth century. People returned to their so-called "mother church" - the main church or cathedral in their area - for a service to be held on Laetare Sunday. Those who attended were said to have gone "a-mothering" - although it is unclear as to whether this influenced the term "Mothering Sunday".

Anna Jarvis
Anna Jarvis is the founder of Mother\'s Day in the US Wikimedia Commons

Years later, the celebration became a day when household servants were given a day off to visit their families. Children would pick wild flowers to present to their mothers, which became the modern-day tradition of giving presents. Generally, servants were not given free days on other occasions.

Mother's Day

Although Mother's Day and Mothering Sunday have morphed into one celebration in the UK, they come from different origins. Mother's Day, unrelated to the Christian celebration, began in the early 20th century in the United States. It is celebrated on different days across the world, but is generally observed between April and May in the nothern hemisphere.

The modern holiday of Mother's Day was first celebrated in 1908, when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother in Grafton, West Virginia.

Her mother, Ann Jarvis, had previously founded Mother's Day Work Clubs in five cities across the US to improve sanitary and health conditions for working men and women. After Ann died, her daughter held a memorial for her and campaigned to make Mother's Day a recognised holiday. Her wish was finally granted in 1914.

By the 1920s, Anna had grown tired of the commercialisation of the holiday, in particular, the use of printed greetings cards. She incorporated herself as the Mother's Day International Association, trade-marked the phrase 'Mother's Day' - and was arrested for disturbing the peace on more than one occasion. Anna and her sister, Ellsinore, spent their inheritance campaigning against the holiday and what it had become and both died in poverty.

Inspired by Anna's effort in the US, Constance Penswick-Smith created the Mothering Sunday Movement in 1914.

By the 1920s, the custom of celebrating Mothering Sunday had begun to dwindle in continental Europe. Its revival was mainly down to the influence of American and Canadian soldiers serving abroad in World War II, as Mothering Sunday was merged with new traditions from the US.

Where is it celebrated?

Mother's Day is celebrated on different days in many parts of the world, but most commonly in spring. However, dates varies from country to country.

In Greece, the celebration falls on 2nd February, yet it occurs in October in Argentina. In some countries, the date was changed to a date significant to the majority religion, such as Virgin Mary Day in some Catholic countries.

Other states chose a date with historical meaning. Bolivia's Mother's Day, for example, marks the date of a battle in whch women participated.

In ex-communist countries, the more socialist International Women's Day is celebrated instead of Mother's Day. Kyrgyzstan recently introduced Mother's Day, but International Women's Day is more widely recognised.