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Remember when the Peace Corps adopted the slogan “The toughest job you’ll ever love”? No offense, Peace Corps, but that adage is more appropriate for motherhood — a job that is ever-changing and frequently exasperating. Moms don’t get days off, nor do they receive handsome salaries or generous pensions. Instead, their rewards come in the form of sticky kisses, necklaces made of elbow macaroni, and the satisfaction of seeing their children grow up to be happy, healthy adults. That’s probably not adequate compensation — so give Mom an extra hug on Mother’s Day, the second Sunday in May, just in case, and follow our guide to giving back.
When is Mother's Day 2021?
The beautiful and unparalleled bond of love shared between kids and mothers is honored and celebrated on Mother’s Day on May 9.
History of Mother's Day
Celebrations go back to ancient times when Greeks and Romans held festivals in honor of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele. However, the early Christian festival known as “Mothering Sunday stands as the modern precursor. This European tradition fell on the fourth Sunday in Lent. Many believed the faithful would return on this day to their “mother church”— the main church near their home — for a special service. The Mothering Sunday tradition shifted over time into a more secular holiday where children would give their mothers flowers and other gifts. This custom would blend into the American Mother’s Day in the 1930s and 1940s.
American author and poet Julia Ward Howe, who wrote “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,”became the editor of Woman’s Journal, a widely-read suffragist magazine, in 1872. During that time, she wrote an “Appeal to womanhood throughout the world,” which would become known as the Mother’s Day Proclamation. The document asked women to fight for world peace following both the Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War. Howe then launched a failed attempted to start a “Mother’s Day” celebration on June 2. Two decades later Howe suggested a Mother’s Day celebration every July 4. This also failed to take hold, but set the stage for a future attempt.
Anna Jarvis successfully initiated Mother’s Day after her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, died in 1905. Jarvis noted that Mother’s Day should contain a “singular possessive,” (hence the apostrophe) so each family might honor its own mother — as opposed to all mothers. Jarvis, who neither married nor had children, organized the first official Mother’s Day celebration in May 1908. A Philadelphia department store owner named John Wanamaker lent his financial support to the cause. That same month thousands of people attended a Mother’s Day event at one of Wanamaker’s stores.
Jarvis soon lobbied to make Mother’s Day a national holiday — urging prominent Americans to join the effort. By 1912 many states, towns, and churches had adopted Mother’s Day as an annual event. Jarvis also started the Mother’s Day International Association. President Wilson would soon establish the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day in 1914. Hallmark began selling Mother’s Day cards in the early 1920s.
Jarvis’ love affair with the holiday she worked so hard to start did not last, and she eventually grew to resent its commercial appeal. As florists and greeting card companies began to cash in, she soured on the idea of a national day — urging people to stop buying flowers, cards and candies. Jarvis spent most of her personal wealth hiring attorneys to file lawsuits against groups using the term “Mother’s Day.” She even tried to persuade the federal government to remove it from the calendar.
Mother's Day timeline
To foster friendship between mothers during the Civil War, Ann Jarvis starts ‘Mother’s Friendship Day.’
Ann’s daughter Anna Reeves Jarvis establishes a day of observance in honor of her own mother.
Following the establishment of the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day by Anna Jarvis, President Woodrow Wilson passes a law to make the day a national holiday.
$23 billion is spent on gifts and dinners on Mother’s Day.
Traditions of the Day
The undying love and selfless sacrifices of mothers are returned with some royal treatment of them on Mother’s Day. It’s the day to pamper the queen of the household herself! Think gifts, breakfast in bed, hand-drawn cards with stickers on them, a shopping spree or spa day, the works!
Most common traditions of the day include the kids and dad taking over the house chores and cooking for the day, spending extra time with mom, and buying mom traditional gifts like flowers, jewelry, or an item that she has had her eyes on for a while. There are great sales and discounts across several stores and restaurants, as well as special deals only for mothers. Movies and episodes related to mothers or Mother’s Day are aired all day long, and talk shows and segments featuring celebrity mothers. Speaking of celebrities, mothers are the stars of the day, so their photos are all over social media.
By the Numbers
122 million – the approximate number of calls made on Mother’s Day.
¼ – the fraction of all flowers sold throughout the year that are for Mother’s Day.
87 million – the number of adults who made plans to go to a restaurant with their mothers on Mother’s Day in 2018.
43.5 million – the number of mothers in the U.S., as of 2014.
152 million – the number of Mother’s Day cards sent on this holiday.
36% – the percentage of Americans who prefer buying jewelry as a gift for their mothers on Mother’s Day.
777,817 – the number of daycare centers in the U.S. that make the job of being a mom a little easier.
9.9 million – the number of single mothers living with their children in 2010.
9 – the increase in working hours in a week for mothers since 1965.
4 in 10 – the number of families for which mothers are the breadwinners.
Mother's Day FAQs
When is Father's Day?
What are the most popular flowers?
What are some popular Mother’s Day gifts under $25?
- Scalp massager
- Hair towel
- Tea infuser
- Essential oils
- Thoughtful mug
- Water bottle
Mother's Day Activities
Ever notice how your mom always says she doesn’t want expensive presents? Believe her. She just wants to spend some time with you (yes, it’s a cliché, but that doesn’t make it any less true). So, take a hike or plan a picnic. Help her in the garden or hit the town. Even if it’s no more creative than a big bowl of popcorn and a “GOT” marathon, Mom will enjoy the QT more than any tangible present.
Take her out. Find an amazing restaurant and treat Mom to a mimosa or three. Planning on taking her out later? The sky’s the limit for lunch and dinner options. Plan ahead. Make a reservation. Remember, you're an adult now.
Listening is an act of love. So, with that in mind, take a break from talking about your own problems and listen to her talk about her life, her dreams, or her favorite memories. If you have siblings, get the family together and tell stories!
Take the Mother's Day Quiz
10 Quotes From Famous Mothers:
“I want to thank my parents for somehow raising me to have confidence disproportionate with my looks and abilities.” —Tina Fey
“I cannot stress enough that the answer to life’s questions is often in people’s faces. Try putting your iPhones down once in a while and look in people’s faces. People’s faces will tell you amazing things. Like if they are angry, or nauseous or asleep.” —Amy Poehler
“I love being a mom and having two kids. But I’ve had two C-sections, and I have suffered enough. That’s my favorite mantra when it comes to motherhood.” —Ali Wong
“They say that when a woman wants to end a relationship, she cuts off all of her hair. I’ve done that twice in my marriage but am still married.” —Leslie Mann
“I always tell young people when I’m trying to encourage them, ‘You have certain windows in your life, and you have to take advantage of it. You gotta jump through because they will shut on you.’” —Pamela Adlon
“I guess if I wrote a book one day, it would be about hair.” —Julia Louis-Dreyfus
“I’m capable of living in the moment. And I’m especially capable of living in the moment of sitting on my sofa and watching other people’s moments.” —Samantha Bee
“I’ve never felt like I needed to change. I’ve always thought, ‘If you want somebody different, pick somebody else.’ But sure, criticism can sometimes still get to me. Some things are so malicious, they knock the wind out of you.” —Melissa McCarthy
“Right now, I’m hankering for new adventures… Ninety percent of the time I’m having romantic-comedy fantasies in which I’m wearing little pencil skirts and hurrying down to the subway.” —Mindy Kaling
“I’m not that good looking… nobody is that good looking. I have seen a lot of movie stars, and maybe four are amazing looking. The rest have a team of gay guys who make it happen.”—Tina Fey
Why We Love Mother's Day
Like so many constants in our lives, we sometimes take our parents for granted. After all, we’ve known them all our lives. Yes, we know that Mother’s Day can feel somewhat commercialized and obligatory, but if you can think outside the checkbook and do something truly special for (or better yet, with) your mother, then why not do it?
She can do it all
For the first couple of years, your mom fed you, protected you, and read “Goodnight Moon” to you until she knew it by heart. After that came the lessons in how to share, to try new foods, and to not wallop your brother over the head with a metal Tonka truck. She encouraged your curiosity, indulged your interests, helped form your sense of humor. In other words, she made you, well, you.
An inclusive celebration
Maybe the woman who gave birth to you isn’t with you now —but it’s a good bet that there are other strong, influential women in your life. Mother figures come in many shapes, so don’t take Mother’s Day too literally. Say thank you to any or all of the women you know who work hard and love others, since that’s essentially what mothering is all about.
Mother's Day dates