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Mothers Day and Hungry Ghost

Updated on July 21, 2011

As Chinese, we seems don't know Mothers Day till recently, we have Women's Day instead, that's 8th March. Chinese government will award 10 National Model Mothers in People's Congress Hall, and one day off for normal female workers. Hang out slogans such as "women can hold up half of the sky" in front of a building, and also have bonus or presents for every women.

During the "Reform and Open Period" in 1980s, the Mothers Day was gradually imported from America, although not officially confirmed. School teacher will unofficially tell their pupils to do some meaningful things for their mother, a card, gift, washing dishes or clothes to show their filial pity. But this Mothers Day is not our OWN, and the date Second Sunday of May as Mothers Day is also quite strange to Chinese. So we suddenly in a state of lost. We have more than five thousands years of culture, how can it be that we haven't got our OWN Mothers Day? Then some people begin to dig deep into the history, trying to find a model mother such as Virgin Mary who can represent all Chinese mother.

Chinese People's Political Consultative Committee member Hanqiu Li suggested that the second day of the fourth lunar month, which is the birthday of Confucianism philosopher Mencius' mother. Mr. Li suggested Mencius' mother's birthday as Chinese Mothers Day because of the virtues of Mecius' mother. Legend has it that Mencius' mother moved their home three times----from beside a cemetery to beside a marketplace, to finally beside a school-before finding a location that she felt was suitable for his upbringing.

Mencius' Mother
Mencius' Mother
Mahamaudgalyayana
Mahamaudgalyayana

But if you ask Buddhist, they will not agree. Although Buddhism has been suppressed for long time, and people have almost forgot any traditions which can be put up with the imported Mothers Day. Actually they have, fifteenth day of the seventh month is Ullambana Day which is Mothers day, and a special Sutra (Ullambana Sutra, Buddhism Classic) for that day.

This reminds me of this festival which we always celebrate at fifteenth day of the seventh month every Lunar year. But in my impression this festival is dedicated to the Hungry Ghost! That night, we lay out basins of assorted fruits and burn incense and candles for the ancestors and especially Hungry Ghost. We go to bed early and turn chairs and stools upside down or stack them up, or the Hungry Ghost will come to your house and sit down. So Chinese people normally think that day is Hungry Ghost Day, is there anything to do with Mothers Day?

Quite contrary to Mencius' mother, according to Ullambana Sutra, Mahamaudgalyayana's is a sinner, she had big offences when she was alive. She reborn into Hungry Ghost world after she died. One day , Mahamaudgalyayana wished to repay his parents' kindness for raising him. Thus, using his way eye, he saw that his deceased mother had been born among the hungry ghosts, having neither food nor drink, she was but skin and bones. So Mahaudgalayana felt deep pity and sadness, filled a bowl with food and went to provide for his mother. She got the bowl, screened it with her left hand, and with her right hand made a fist of food. But, before it entered her mouth, it turned into burning coals which could not be eaten. Mahamaudgalyayana called out and wept sorrowfully, and hastened to return to the Buddha for help. (http://www.purifymind.com/UllambanaSutra.htm)

Then Budha set forth a day which is the fifteenth day of the seventh month for all the sake of fathers and mothers of seven generations past, as well as fathers and mothers of the present who are in deep distress.

So, from above two cases Chinese Mothers Day , one origin from the virtuous of Mencius' mother, another from the sin of Mahamaudgalyayana's mother. The cultural and religious meaning is quite different. Actually, the Mother day celebrated all over the world, because every has a mother (maybe except for Cloned Human in future), but the date and its meaning are quite diversity.

Ironically, the Mother of the American Mothers DayAnna Jarvis was never married and never had kids; (http://www.mothersdaycelebration.com/mothers-day-history.html)

The word "mother" in Mothering Day in England originally means a bigger Church or the biggest Cathedral. About four hundred years ago, people who lived in little villages made a point of going not to their local church but to the nearest big church. To what was called the Mother Church. And some would go to the nearest city to worship in the cathedral. (A cathedral is a very large church and the 'mother church' of all other churches in that area or 'diocese'. ) Mothers Day in England just a by-product of this kind of religious activity. People who visited their mother church would say they had gone "mothering"; Young English girls and boys 'in service' were only allowed one day to visit their family each year. This was usually Mothering Sunday. Often the housekeeper or cook would allow the maids to bake a cake to take home for their mother. Sometimes a gift of eggs; or flowers from the garden (or hothouse) was allowed. Flowers were traditional, as the young girls and boys would have to walk home to their village, and could gather them on their way home through the meadows. (http://www.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/customs/easter/mothers.htm)

Mothers Day is celebrated on different days, in England, its fourth Sunday of Christian festival of Lent; In United states, officially second Sunday on May; Others, such as second Sunday in February, May 10, last Sunday in May, even second Sunday in October. (http://www.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/customs/blog/2006/03/mothers-day-around-world_114321976441008984.html). If Chinese government officially adopts the Hanqiu Li's Suggestion, Chinese Mothers Day will be the second day of the fourth lunar month which is a different day in Gregorian Calendar every year, but if Ullambana Day be revived, the day will be fifteenth of the seventh mother.

We have to live with the diversity of the culture and religion, no exception for the Mothers Day, so why shall we have a set date for Mothers Day, every day shall be Mothers Day, the pain of a mother to raise children and the repayment from children is without limit, and the love

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    • In The Doghouse profile image

      In The Doghouse 

      10 years ago from California

      Really informative HUB, I enjoyed reading about the Chinese mother day celebrations. Thanks for posting.

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