It is Mother’s Day. And as a mother I began wondering, “How did this holiday ever come to be?” Why does it seem different now compared to when I was a child? Carnations were given to mothers at church and the focus on family and togetherness seemed so different.
Here I am, the youngest, in my favorite photo. Three generations of Moms (Well I wasn’t a mother yet but it certainly was my destiny.)
And here I am with my sweet and blessed destiny. (We really need an updated one.)
As I sip coffee and reflect, I remember as a child how eager I was for that time at Mass when all the mothers were honored as each of them approached the altar to receive a carnation. It was a symbol to the church family of all of the strength and love surrounding us. One year they let the church children present the flowers and I remember proudly handing one to my grandmother and mother along with so many other mothers.
Why did we do this every year? Why do most churches no longer practice this? Why has this tradition changed? And even more, when did it start?
Well, we can thank Anna Jarvis for this holiday. After her mother died, Anna wanted a day to honor the sacrifice mothers make for their children. And through her efforts she organized the first ever celebration in two locations: A Wanamaker Department store in Philadelphia and a Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia. Mothers were given a white carnatoon to wear as a badge of recognition and the day was set aside to spend time together as a family honoring moms. Anna continued to champion her cause to gain national support. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure making it an official holiday.
Isn’t it ironic though that within a few years the holiday evolved from a carnation badge, visiting church services and and spending family time together to cards, gifts, and commercialism? In 1920, Anna reacted to this turn of events by denouncing the holiday and actively lobbying until her death in 1948 to have the holiday removed from the American calendar.
Today, over 100 years from the signed measure, we still celebrate moms. I wonder if Anna sees that many families are truer to her intention than she imagined. I so believe we can certainly simplify the day.
Some of my favorite Mother’s Day gifts have been crafts, handmade cards, and just being with my family.
I would really like to see all the carnation badges proudly worn as we celebrate the day. How cool would it be to be sitting at a church service and a restaurant and look around at all of the honor badges on the moms who have spent the majority of life showing up say in and day out for their children? An outward sign of love that is just so simple. Can we bring that back?
Happy Mother’s Day!