Global mobile citizens, naturally, have a different Mother’s Day experience than they would in their home country. First, it’s not celebrated on the same day. Last week was Mother’s Day in the Czech Republic. It passed with a whisper. Nothing like Mother’s Day in the United States celebrated at mythic proportions, fueled by the capitalist machine my country is known for.
The U.S. celebration of Mother’s Day is not related to the many celebrations of mothers and motherhood that occur throughout the world. Some have been happening for thousands of years; the Greek cult to Cybele, the Roman festival of Hilaria, or the Christian Mothering Sunday celebration (originally a commemoration of Mother Church, not motherhood). In some countries, Mother’s Day has become synonymous with these older traditions.
This special day was first celebrated in the U.S. in 1908, at a memorial Ann Jarvis held for her mother. She was no lightweight, sentimentalist. Ann Jarvis had been a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War, and created Mother’s Day Work Clubs to address public health issues. She believed that mothers were “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world”.
In 1908, the US Congress rejected a proposal to make Mother’s Day an official holiday, joking that they would also have to proclaim a “Mother-in-law’s Day.” Ann campaigned tirelessly, and in 1914, Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation designating Mother’s Day, the second Sunday in May, as a national holiday to honor mothers.
Although Jarvis was successful in founding Mother’s Day, she became resentful of the commercialization of the holiday. By the early 1920s, Hallmark Cards and other companies had started selling Mother’s Day cards. Jarvis believed that the companies had misinterpreted and exploited the idea of Mother’s Day, and that the emphasis of the holiday was on sentiment, not profit. Her cries echo through the holiday in many parts of the world.
In Brazil, Mother’s Day is one of the most commercial holidays celebrated, second only to Christmas. Brazil commemorates this special day on the second Sunday in May with special children’s performances and church gatherings, which often culminate in large, multi-generational barbecues.
A purist form of the holiday can be found in Japan. American-born Gross-Loh spent five years raising her children in Japan, where the day is celebrated on the second Sunday in May. Mothers are revered in Japanese culture and receive beautiful carnations — which represent the gentle strength of mothers.
“Children draw pictures of their mothers in school and sometimes enter them in art contests,” says Gross-Loh. “Like most other countries, Mother’s Day is a day of pampering for moms — kids help take over the household chores, have a special family meal, like sushi or eggs, and give their mothers red carnations or roses and cards.”
While a commercialized Mother’s Day is not celebrated everywhere, cultures worldwide do things to pay honor to their mothers, from rituals to special treatments at special times, including pregnancy or childbirth. Peru, a country I’ve had the pleasure to visit twice (Read all about it in Book 3 Two Broke Chicas Backpack Through South and Central America, Mexico and Cuba), is no exception to this rule. Mother’s Day is the second Sunday of May, there are gifts, chocolates, and festive family meals. Children exchange handmade items with their mothers. Since I have never taken part in this ritual while in Peru, I am left to wonder how well the handmade tradition has fared in modern, capitalist times.
Peru’s indigenous Andean population, however, also celebrates the gifts of Mother Earth, or Pachamama, in early August. Pachamama is the mother of civilization, beloved by many indigenous Andean populations. Pachamama as the cause of earthquakes and bringer of fertility. Her special worship day is called Martes de Challa.
Similar holidays are commonplace throughout the world, including Argentina (2nd Sunday in Oct.), France (last Sunday in May), Lebanon (1st day of Spring), Norway (2nd Sunday in Feb.), South Africa (1st Sunday in May), Sweden (last Sunday in May), and Yugoslavia/Serbia (two weeks before Christmas).
Clare Florist, not a capitalist play in the least, has provided us with a list of Mother’s Days around the world. Let Clare know if she missed any.
THE DIGITAL WORLD IS A GIFT TO MOTHERS
Location independent work has allowed families to raise their children outside of their home country, creating a next generation of global citizens. A skill for the fourth industrial revolution finding home along the way. We’ve learned a lot on our digital road trip. Check out 4 pillars of a location independent family driven entrepreneur.
WHEN MOTHERHOOD IS THE MOST DANGEROUS JOB
If you move past the Hallmark Card aspects of the holiday, this day is ironic. Few countries are really making it easier for mothers. While some countries offer luxurious paid parental leave, like the three years in the Czech Republic, which is mostly taken by mothers, and others offer almost none, like the U.S., there are places where motherhood can be a death sentence. The lack of prenatal care because of bombed out hospitals and medical clinics have made Afghanistan’s mothers among the world’s most likely to die in childbirth. Babies born in Afghanistan are also among the most likely in the world to die before their first birthday. The State of the World’s Mothers report from Save the Children documents these facts in heartbreaking detail.
The U.S. is not absent from the trend. Texas has joined the list of most dangerous place in the world for mothers. This dubious honor is a recent one, with a study showing that the rate of women dying from pregnancy complications doubled from 2010-2014. There is a causal link with another trend around women’s health in Texas: the deliberate closure of clinics that provide abortion and drastic funding cuts to the state’s family planning budget. These clinics were often the only source of affordable prenatal care in a nation where health care is a privilege reserved for the lucky.
There is much work to be done before we can truly celebrate a global Mother’s Day. And there is an organization trying to do something about it, virtually.
Sending love out to mothers everywhere. One of the hardest jobs in the world.
I leave you with a national Anthem for my home country on this glorious Mother’s Day.
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