Mother, mom, mommy, or ma, no matter what you call her, she is traditionally the first adult in our lives who provides us with unconditional love and support. She works tirelessly to take care of us and guide us throughout our life helping us make the best decisions to become a successful adult. It is for these reasons that we honor all mothers in the U.S. on May 12-Mother’s Day. You may buy her flowers or one of our personal favorites: a sweet from Three Brothers Bakery to show her your appreciation for all that she’s done and continues to do. But before you buy any gifts, edible or otherwise, take a minute to learn a bit more about this historical holiday.

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The Ancient Greeks and Romans 

The oldest references to a celebration for mothers can be found in the ancient Roman and Greek civilizations. Both used to hold regular festivals in the spring in honor of Rhea and Cybele who were the mother goddesses of their respective mythologies.

Mother’s Day in Europe

By the early 1600s, Christians in England had chosen a day to celebrate the mother of Christ. Soon a religious order decreed that all mothers in the nation be honored on this day. Eventually, as Christianity spread throughout Europe so did Mothering Day, as it became known. It was observed on the fourth Sunday of Lent (40 day period leading up to Easter). Additionally, it was seen as a time when the faithful would return to their main church in their vicinity for a special service.

Mother’s Day in England

Mothering Day in England is celebrated in similar ways to the U.S. Eating a variety of rich tasting baked goods and presenting small presents are usually what is done. However, originally a rich fruit cake or Simnel was commonly made and eaten during this holiday. This sweet dessert was often baked at the end of Lent to compensate for the general strictness that is associated with this Christian holiday (i.e. no sugar or alcohol during Lent). Made up of layers of cake, a traditional Simnel is usually decorated with 11 balls of marzipan that represent all the disciples of Jesus, excluding Judas. Today, it is less common to see Simnel at a Mothering Day brunch in England, but they remain a symbol of this holiday.

American Mother’s Day

Mother's day cake by 3 Brothers bakery

American Mother’s Day began in the 1900s. A woman by the name of Anna Jarvis wanted to designate a day to honor the sacrifices mothers made for their children and families. In May 1908, with the financial backing of a local department store owner, she organized the first Mother’s Day celebration at her Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia.

With this success, Jarvis was determined to see this holiday added to the national calendar. She argued that most of the American holidays were biased towards men and their achievements. As such she began a massive letter writing campaign targeting newspapers and prominent politicians. By 1912, many cities and churches had adopted the holiday, but it wasn’t until 1914 that president Woodrow Wilson officially established the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day throughout the World

Many other countries around the world celebrate Mother’s Day. Their traditions vary as much as the culture of the country itself.

For example, in Thailand, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the same day as their queen’s birthday. Comparatively, in Ethiopia, Mother’s Day is observed in the fall with a large feast and singsong. It is part of Antrosht, which is a multi-day festival designed to celebrate and honor motherhood.

Mother’s Day Today 

In the United States, Mother’s Day continues to be celebrated, and in 2019 on May 12th, by presenting them with gifts, flowers, and food. It has become one of the largest holidays for consumer spending including buying a variety of baked goods. Whether you are a mother or have one that you want to honor, take a moment on May 12th to call or visit. Regardless if you call her mother, mommy, mom, or ma, now’s the time to tell her how much you love and appreciate all that she has done for you. Happy Mother’s Day from Three Brothers Bakery!