Mother’s Day: How It Started & Celebrated Around the World
Asia/ Ohana/ Family

Get to Know Mother’s Day Celebrations & Traditions Around the World

Mothers Day Around the World 2

Mother's Day is a heartfelt celebration dedicated to honouring mothers and their endless love for their children. It's a special day to express our gratitude to them for nurturing and shaping us into who we are right now.

Across the globe, families mark this occasion by presenting their mothers with gifts and creating cherished memories together. While it varies depending on a country’s tradition and culture, one thing remains universal: Mother’s Day is when we thank our loved ones for their enduring love and dedication.

The Second Sunday of May

Mother's Day is celebrated on the second Sunday of May largely due to the efforts of Anna Jarvis, an American who is credited for founding the modern version of this special day in the early 20th century.

Her campaign to establish a day to honour mothers began after her mom died in 1905. She envisioned Mother's Day to acknowledge the sacrifices mothers make for the sake of their families. In 1914, her efforts bore fruit as then-President Woodrow Wilson officially proclaimed Mother’s Day as a national holiday in the United States, with the rest of the world following suit.

child holding i heart mom card and flowers

Today, Mother’s Day celebrations are a blend of global influences and local traditions. In cities like Hong Kong and Singapore, gift-giving is common practice. It can be as grand as a piece of jewellery or as simple as a beauty product or a tea set. Many businesses also capitalise on this special day by offering discounted tailor-made experiences like spa days and Mother’s Day brunch and dinner menus.

In the Philippines, which is known to be deeply family-oriented and has a strong Catholic heritage, many families start their day by visiting the nearest church and attending a mass. Afterwards, they cook a festive meal at home or eat at a restaurant and do leisure activities like going to a shopping mall. Buying a cake and giving flowers are also customs in the country during Mother’s Day.

bouquet of red carnation

As for other countries, carnations are a popular gift to give as they represent the virtues of motherhood: purity, endurance, love, and beauty. White carnations are for honouring moms who passed away, while red carnations are for moms who are still alive as red’s vibrant colour symbolises love and a beating heart.

Of course, Mother’s Day doesn’t always have to involve spending a huge amount of money or spending at all. In the United States and other parts of the world, making personalised cards has become a popular activity for children. Many have also maximised technology by creating digital gifts like collages and video messages, making them eco-friendly and long-lasting.

Other Mother’s Day Dates

While many countries celebrate Mother's Day on the second Sunday of May, some countries honour this special day on a different date due to their unique historical and cultural origins.

For example, Mother's Day in Thailand is celebrated on Aug. 12 to commemorate the birthday of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit the Queen Mother. This specific date also became the country’s National Thai Textile Day, as the Queen Mother was the one who empowered women in rural communities and created a foundation that helped preserve the history and craftsmanship of Thai textiles. To give respect, Thais wear blue (the Queen Mother’s colour) and offer jasmine flowers, which symbolises purity and gentleness, to their mothers.

In Indonesia, Mother's Day is celebrated every 22nd of December. But unlike other countries, this day honours ALL women, not just motherhood. Also known as “Hari Ibu,” this celebration got its roots from the first Indonesian Women’s Congress in 1928, which paved the way for increasing societal awareness about women's issues, struggles, and resilience. The date became official after it was signed by Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno, under the Presidential Decree No. 316 of 1959.

The United Kingdom, on the other hand, celebrates “Mothering Sunday” on the fourth Sunday of Lent, which is also known as Laetare Sunday, Mid-Lent Sunday, or Refreshment Sunday. Its origin dates back to the Middle Ages when children from poor families had to leave their homes to become domestic servants for rich families. These children are given a day off once a year (in the middle of Lent) to visit their hometown’s “Mother Church” and reunite with their mothers, while giving them flowers they picked along the way.

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