The first official Mother's Day celebrations in the United States took place in West Virginia in 1908, at the urging of Anna Jarvis. Anna's mother (also named Anna), who was active in her community, frequently organized women's groups to promote friendship and health. It had been her dream to reunite families divided by the Civil War with a day dedicated to mothers. When she passed away on May 12, 1907, Anna held a memorial service at her late mother's church in her honor. Her mother's idea of Mother's Day quickly caught on, and within five years of her death, virtually every state was observing the day on the anniversary of her death. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson declared the second Sunday of May as the official Mother's Day.

Although Jarvis had promoted wearing a white carnation as a tribute to one's mother, the custom developed of wearing a red or pink carnation to represent a living mother or a white carnation for a mother who was deceased. Over time, the day was expanded to include others, such as grandmothers and aunts, who played mothering roles. However, what had originally been primarily a day of honor became associated with the sending of cards and the giving of gifts and in protest against its commercialization, Jarvis spent the last years of her life trying to abolish the holiday that she had helped establish.

Mother's Day is celebrated around the world, either on this date, or at other times of the year. In 17th century England, those who had moved away were allowed to visit their home parishes and their mothers on Laetare Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent. This became "Mothering Sunday," now celebrated earlier in the year in England. Some countries have also continued to observe ancient festivals; for example, Durga-puja, honoring the goddess Durga, remains an important festival in India.

» Send a Mother's Day E-Card!