A closer look at the celebration of Mother’s Day

On Sunday, May 8th, people across North America will be celebrating Mother’s Day. It is a time when all mothers are honoured, along with the concept of motherhood and all the bonds of nurturing, caring, sharing, etc. that are part of that universal life experience.

The first modern Mother’s Day was celebrated in May 1908 at St. Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia. Its leading proponent was Anna Jarvis, who wanted to honour her late mother and all her mother’s work on behalf of peace, family health and other related social causes.

Jarvis was purportedly inspired by a line in a prayer her mother used: “I hope and pray that someone, sometime, will found a memorial mother’s day commemorating her for the matchless service she renders to humanity in every field of life. She is entitled to it.”

Jarvis became a tireless advocate for expanding the celebration of Mother’s Day across the United States. In 1910, West Virginia made it a state holiday.

All states quickly followed suit.

In 1912, Jarvis founded the Mother’s Day International Society. She insisted that singular possessive be used as she wanted each family to use the day to especially honour their mother.

In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the second Sunday in May to be the national Mother’s Day holiday.

The links between Canada and the United States have always been strong.

In 1912, the Red Deer newspapers started publishing notices that the second Sunday in May was ‘Mother’s Day.’

The objective was, “To honour and uplift motherhood and to give happiness to ‘The Best Mother Who Ever Lived’ – your mother.”

People were also encouraged to wear a white carnation as it typified, “Purity, beauty, love, charity and fidelity.”

By 1914, a number of local churches began having special Mother’s Day celebrations.

In most instances, the usual Sunday School sessions were not held so that the children could sit in the regular service with their mothers. In some cases, special afternoon Mother’s Day Sunday School celebrations were organized.

However, a few churches, particularly the Anglican Church, continued to follow the older tradition of ‘Mothering Sunday’, held earlier in the year on the fourth Sunday of Lent.

This tradition was originally established to encourage people to, “Go back to their mother church” as part of the Lenten season. As time went on, Mothering Sunday also became a time to celebrate mothers and their children as part of the service.

Mother’s Day took on even more emotional meaning in the years following the end of the First World War. Many mothers in the community had lost their sons and/or their husbands during that terrible conflict.

Mother’s Day provided an opportunity to remind everyone of the terrible loss that those mothers had experienced ‘for a greater cause.’

In 1922, the Gaetz-Cornett Drug and Book Company in Red Deer began adding a new element to the annual celebration.

Greeting cards were offered for sale at 5¢ to 75¢ each, while fresh-cut flowers, particularly carnations, were offered for sale to the public. The following year, the store added special books, roses and boxes of candy to its selection of appropriate Mother’s Day gift suggestions.

As the 1920s progressed, the tradition began of wearing a red carnation, or similar flower, if one’s mother was still alive, and a white one if she was now deceased.

However, because fresh-cut flowers were expensive, many people used various other flowers or else wore a badge with a floral image.

Mother’s Day gifts became more common after 1928 when Eaton’s, Red Deer’s first department store, opened for business and offered a wider-array of potential gift ideas.

In the years following the Second World War, and the commencement of the great Baby Boom, the celebration of Mother’s Day became more popular than ever.

Today, Mother’s Day remains one of the most beloved celebrations on the annual calendar. It also continues to be a major retail and commercial event, second only to Christmas and the back to school sales season.

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