Breakfast in bed, beautiful flowers, heartfelt cards and special visits: If you’re an American mother, chances are good you’ll enjoy at least one of these on the second Sunday in May. Most other countries celebrate Mother’s Day, too, in some similar ways — though a few other cultures have their own unique traditions. Here are a few of them!
Mother’s Day in the United States
The history: The idea for Mother’s Day in America came from a woman named Anna Jarvis, who argued that holidays were disproportionately biased toward the achievements of men.
Grieved by her own mother’s death in 1905, she started a massive letter-writing campaign to newspapers and prominent politicians, urging the adoption of a special day honoring the sacrifices of mothers.
She organized the first official Mother’s Day celebration at a West Virginian Methodist church in May 1908. Six years later, President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure officially establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.
How it is celebrated: Nowadays, flowers, chocolate, candy, clothing, jewelry and treats are common presents for mothers, as are activities such as spa days and restaurant dinners. In the days and weeks before Mother’s Day, many teachers help their students prepare handmade cards and small gifts for their mothers.
Mother’s Day in the United Kingdom
The history: In Great Britain, Mother’s Day falls on the fourth Sunday of Lent — usually in March, but sometimes in April — and is also called Mothering Sunday. The tradition stems from medieval times, when poverty forced poor families to send their children off to work. The kids were granted one day during the Lenten season to visit their families at home, where they picked flowers and gave their mothers “Mothering Cakes.”
How it is celebrated: Today, Mother’s Day is celebrated much as it is in the US, with gifts of flowers, cards and special time with family.
The history:Fete des Meres takes place in late May or early June, depending on the date of Pentecost. It became an official celebration in 1950, although Napoleon was the first to declare it a holiday.
How it is celebrated: As in many other countries, the French celebrate their mothers with a relaxing day of food, gifts and family time.
Mother’s Day in Mexico
The history: Since 1922, Mexicans have celebrated Mother’s Day on May 10, regardless of the day of the week.
How it is celebrated: Much like their US neighbors, children present their mothers with gifts of candy, cards or flowers. In some Mexican cities, it’s customary to wake mothers early in the morning with song; those who can afford it hire trios or mariachi bands to perform.
A special Mother’s Day mass is another early morning tradition, and is usually followed by a community breakfast.
The history: The history of Mother’s Day in Japan goes back to the Showa period, when the day commemorated the birthday of Empress Kojun. The modern-day tradition — also on the second Sunday in May — began in the year 1913, temporarily halting during the Second World War.
How it is celebrated: Children greet their mothers with “Haha-no-hi” and give them beautiful carnations, which represent gentle maternal strength.
Mother’s Day in China
The history: The official celebration falls on the second day of the lunar calendar’s fourth month, but it’s generally celebrated on the second Sunday in May. First a regional occasion in Hong Kong and Macau, Mother’s Day gained acceptance on the mainland after Chinese economic reform in 1979.
How it is celebrated: Like the Japanese, the Chinese buy their moms carnations, which represent the sweetness, purity and endurance of motherly love.
Mother’s Day in Russia
The history: The Mother’s Day tradition here arose in the 1940s when women struggling for equal rights organized a day of rebellion. It wasn’t until 1998 that President Boris Yeltsin officially declared the last Sunday of every November as Mother’s Day.
How it is celebrated: In Russia, children shower their mothers with handmade crafts, flowers, food and other gifts to show their appreciation.
The history: The three-day autumn festival known as Antrosht celebrates mothers as well as the end of the rainy season.
How it is celebrated: Enormous meals enjoyed with friends and family feature traditional dishes such as hash, for which everyone brings an ingredient. Often, boys bring meat, like lamb and bull; while girls contribute vegetables, butter, spices and cheese.