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Mother's Day: The History Behind This Special Day

Updated on May 6, 2015
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Alicia has been an Author, Columnist, and Reviewer for 10 years. Her success came from perseverance plus organized goal setting.

Frigg aka Frigga, a motherhood Goddess
Frigg aka Frigga, a motherhood Goddess | Source

Mother's Day, celebrated in the United States of America the second Sunday of May and became an official United States national holiday in 1914. This special day set aside for honoring mothers has a very unique and remarkable history. Honoring one's mother on a certain day is not a new concept or custom. This tradition dates back throughout antiquity, since the neolithic period.

In ancient Europe, Mother's Day was normally associated with goddesses who represented the Earth (like Jorth in Norse lore), Nature (like Gaia in the ancient Grecian lore), Fertility (like Nerthus in the Germanic lore), Motherhood (like Frigg also known as Frigga, in Norse and Germanic lore), or as a Mother (like Modron in Celtic lore). It was common to associate a day to each of the goddesses that represented the Earth, Nature, Fertility, Motherhood, and being a Mother.

The ancient Germanic people set aside Thursday for women as a day of rest because it was believed the goddess Frigga (aka Frigg) set that day aside to visit with her step-son Thor, who she loved very much and as a son. This could be looked at as a weekly Mother's Day where mothers would set the entire day aside to visit with their children as an emulation to Frigga (aka Frigg).

In England, Mother's Day is known as Mothering Sunday. This day is usually celebrated on a Sunday in March (it varies from year to year) and stems all the way back to the Romans and the pagan Festival of Hilaria. This particular festival was held in honor of the Roman goddess Cybele who represented the Earth and Nature. Cybele was often referred by the Romans as "The Great Mother." The Festival of Hilaria was celebrated for several days, the 15th through 25th of March. Imagine,10 days filled with public and/or privately celebrating what motherhood and being a mother represents!

In Norway, Mother's Day is celebrated the second Sunday in February. Sunday traditionally by the ancient Norse was associated with the goddess Sunna (goddess of the sun, the one that brings warmth to the Earth). Mother's naturally radiate the warmth of love to their children and the home. One can see how a mother's warmth of love correlates to a goddess that brings warmth, and why the Norwegians (descendants of the Norse people) would have naturally gravitated, due to their root heritage, toward the choosing of Sunday to celebrate Mother's Day.

March has become the most popular month for countries to celebrate Mother's Day. Many Middle Eastern, African, European and Asian nations celebrate this in March. This is primarily due to the ancient tradition of celebrating motherhood in-conjunction with a specific goddess which by many cultures was celebrated around the Vernal Equinox (March 21st).

Israel, however, steeped in their own traditionalism that stems all the way back to the ancient Hebrews, celebrates their Mother's Day on Shevat 30 (a day chosen between January 30 through March 1st).

Some countries celebrate Mother's Day in April, like Nepal and Armenia. Many other countries celebrate Mother's Day in May, like the United States. There are countries like Mongolia who celebrate Mother's Day in June. Some like Thailand celebrate Mother's Day in August. Argentina celebrates their Mother's Day in October, while Russia's is in November. Panama and Indonesia celebrate Mother's Day in December. This makes honoring mothers and motherhood almost all year round. If a mother and her family traveled to other countries throughout the year, they could celebrate Mother's Day almost monthly. How grand that would be!

Happy Mother's Day to you and your family!

More about Mother's Day from these sources -

1. Wikipedia: Mother's Day, Mothering Sunday, Cybele, Frigg, Gaia, Festival of Hilaria, and Nerthus

2. Gods of the Ancient Northmen, Georges Dumezil, University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles,1977

3. Brittanica Online Encyclopedia: Hilaria (Greco-Roman Festival) and Modron

4. Myths of the Norsemen - From the Eddas and Sagas, H.A. Guerber, Dover Publications, Inc, New York, 1992

Homemade Mother's Day gifts
Homemade Mother's Day gifts | Source

A Serbian Account of Mother's Day

A good friend of mine in Serbia after reading this hub about Mother's Day shared with me how the country Serbia celebrates Mother's Day on December 28th, in between Children's Day and Father's Day. They take Mother's Day very seriously because "without mothers, the world would not exist." (a traditional Serbian quote) Serbians believe "all mothers are makers of new lives, the pillar and guardians of the entire family, stability of home, love and happiness." (personal email, March 31, 2015)

Mother's Day in Serbia is the holiday for all mothers, no exceptions, and one of the few holidays ahead of Christmas Day (Jan 7th). In Serbia, because the Julian calendar is used, the four day Christmas celebration begins in January with Christmas Eve on the 6th and celebrated through the 9th. Like Mother's Day, Christmas is very family oriented.

Mother's Day custom, stemming from Serbian tradition, dictates the children today use a rope or a belt, scarf, shawl, and then by surprise bind their mothers legs, usually in the morning before she can begin her usual daily routine. Then Mom is congratulated for her special holiday, and she must be given all sorts of special things in her honor of being a Mother if the children want to be "redeemed." The traditional tying symbolizes a strong bond between parents and children, the love that binds all household members, and the same tying ceremony is done for Children's Day (for children) and the Father's Day (for father's). The Serbian idea behind the tying custom is the person being congratulated, honored for the day, cannot run away from it, has to accept being treated extra special. The tying keeps Mothers also from helping as the children and Father serve or do household chores for her.

Mother's Day gifts are a part of celebrating this sacred day in honor of Mother. Children and Husbands can give something special to eat, but some also gift a walk, cinema, playing in the first snow, plus a sincere hug and kiss. The gifts are usually given after the "untying" aspect of celebrating Mother's Day. Fathers and children go out of their way to keep Mother happy and honored for the entire day.

During the early to mid 20th century Mother's Day in Serbia was an opportunity to help the poor and the homeless. Rich people, members of the Serbian Sisters, and others who were able to help those less fortunate, shared their Mother's Day gifts, food, clothing, etc. Destitute children where helped as necessary. These great Mother's Day deeds were published in the daily newspapers, as a good example to others.

Another noteworthy aspect about this holiday in Serbia is: Mothers and grandmothers in particular are respected, because of the pious mothers and grandmothers who risked themselves so their Orthodox Christian faith and traditions were preserved during the years of former Yugoslavia. If it were not for these mothers and grandmothers all Serbian traditions and their faith would have been lost. Faith, family and tradition is extremely important to Serbians, very ingrained in their culture. They believe their nationality would be lost if all three of these were not preserved.

Historically Mother's Day in Serbia was celebrated the second week before Christmas. Father and children would quietly sneak in the early morning to bind their mother before she got up and began her regular daily routine. The ceremonial "untying" aspect was completed after Mother received her morning Mother's Day celebrating. This mutual "binding" is done as part of celebrating Mother's Day because it shows a strong commitment to Mother. Also makes Mother accept her day off plus gifts of love which creates a festive atmosphere in the family circles. Such a happy family atmosphere is also in honor of the Eastern sages who bowed down to baby Jesus in Bethlehem with gifts of myrrh, frankincense and gold, thereby honoring the Mother-Mary and her child.

The symbolism of this mutual "binding" and "untying" to children and parents is clear to Serbians. For it is their way of preparing for what is to come: welcoming the most joyous Christian holiday, Christmas. Children's Day, and Father's Day and Mother's Day are exclusively Serbian national holidays which their people have created for the entire family to be honored. All three of these are celebrated enthusiastically two weeks before Christmas. They also see celebrating these three holidays as the best way to end the year.

Mother's Day is a sacred holiday for Serbian holy mothers, such as Children's Day for Serbian holy children, and Fathers Day for Serbian holy fathers. They take family and honoring its members very seriously. Serbians have the understanding that without family, there would be no new generations.

From Belgrade, Serbia: Happy Mother's Day! Honor Mother well!

Source: Personal Email from my Serbian friend who prefers to remain anonymous, March 31, 2015

A Mother's Day cookie cake!
A Mother's Day cookie cake! | Source
Books and Collectibles also work well as Mother's Day gifts.
Books and Collectibles also work well as Mother's Day gifts. | Source

Gift Ideas for Mother's Day

Many get stumped on what to give for Mother's Day. Here are some great ideas:

  1. A phone call if you are miles away, and cannot be there on Mom's special day.
  2. A Mother's Day Card to let her know even though you are busy, she was thought about. Make sure it is a good size card, in some cases, the big card is best.
  3. A Mother's Day Card with a gift card slipped in (gift card can be from her favorite store, restaurant, website, etc).
  4. A Mother's Day Make-Over at Mother's favorite make-up in-store counter, followed by a lunch in a Tea Room type of restaurant. You want to take her somewhere special after she is dolled up.
  5. Hair Salon and Nail Spa Day gift certificate: There are Salons who are all-on-one (hair, nails, etc). Usually one gets a gift certificate package and, slips the certificate it in a Mother's Day Card. This way Mother can pick her day to do this.
  6. Bring a bouquet of flowers, flower corsage or flower/fern in a pot when you arrive on Mother's Day. Two gifts in one (you and the flowers/fern).
  7. Take Mother out to her favorite restaurant. Do not allow her to pay, this is your gift to her. Some follow this up with taking Mother to a movie theater to watch a movie newly released.
  8. Have a family cruise: River or Ocean (make sure it is somewhere Mother wants to see) - Mother will not mind everyone doing this with her. Many siblings pitch in to cover cost of Mother and entire family.
  9. Family trip like visiting Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, Redwood National Forest, Mount Vernon, Williamsburg, Washington D.C., Hawaii, Florida beaches, London UK, etc. Note: Get Mother to tell you where she would like to go on a Family Trip. Schedule it around Mother's Day if you can, or put in a Mother's Day Card a handmade note telling her when the trip will be.
  10. Bring something she can wear as a gift (either made by you or store bought) like jewelry, sweater, scarf, etc. If the item can be personalized, have her initials or name put on it.
  11. Book from her favorite author, poet or about a topic she loves.
  12. Find out what movies, mini-series, TV programs she likes. Gift Mother an appropriate DVD or DVD set for Mother's Day.
  13. Send her a Mother's Day box/tower of sweets, or a gift-basket: have it arrive one or two days before. This way she has it when you knock on her door or telephone.
  14. Mother's favorite anything like perfume, chocolate covered strawberries, flower, etc are always something to take into consideration for the perfect Mother's Day gift.
  15. Show up to Mother's house unannounced and give her a great big hug: one of the best gifts you could give her. This works great for college students.

May these ideas help you select the best Mother's Day gift perfect for your mother.

A Mother's Day Song Father's can teach their young children


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    • aliciaharrell profile imageAUTHOR

      Alicia Rose Harrell 

      4 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Appreciate your thoughtful comment RTalloni! :D Many thanks! :D

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Interesting to read about Mother's Day dates in other countries. Thanks for a neat read on this holiday along with the great tips on acknowledging moms with sentiments and gifts.

    • aliciaharrell profile imageAUTHOR

      Alicia Rose Harrell 

      4 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Thank you very much Matt! :D

    • Matt Easterbrook5 profile image

      Matthew A Easterbrook 

      4 years ago from Oregon

      Thank you Alicia for reminding us the importance of Mother's Day. This was a very useful and historic hub. I want to commend you on a hub well done. I ranked your hub useful, interesting, and over all awesome. Keep up the good writing and stay motivated. Definitely, look forward to reading a lot more of your hubs.


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