Just as there are mothers around the world, so too are there variations on the Mother’s Days theme.
While established by Woodrow Wilson as a holiday in the United States in 1911, the practice of recognizing mothers on a specific day or time of year has spread to more than 40 countries, all with their own takes on celebrating moms and motherhood. Here’s a look at the various traditions.
Mother’s Day in France is similar to its U.S. counterpart, but that tradition only started in the 1950s. Prior to that, a few different days were used to recognize women who had given birth to a large number of children to help restore the country’s population following World War I. (Medals were even involved!) After World War II, the French government declared the last Sunday in May Mother’s Day, unless it conflicted with the Pentecost. If it did, mothers were celebrated on the first Sunday of June. Regardless of the day, a traditional gift is a flower-shaped cake.
Following WWII, Mother’s Day in Japan gained some popularity, and it is now celebrated on the second Sunday of May. Gifts include red or pink carnations as they symbolize sweetness and purity. Children will often sketch pictures of their mothers and present them to mom in addition to preparing dishes that their mothers have taught them.
Mother’s Day in Mexico is serious business. Not only is the day fixed — it’s always May 10 — it’s basically a day that much of the country shuts down, except for restaurants. Mother’s Day lunches can run for five hours, and the holiday results in some extra 200,000 waiters getting work.
“The mother is an institution in Mexico, and Mexicans are party animals. And as the mother traditionally is the one working for us, cleaning for us, cooking for us, we believe that at least one day a year, we ought to take her out and let someone else do the cooking,” Manuel Gutierrez, president of the national association of restaurateurs, told the Washington Post in 2012.
While all mothers are recognized during Mother’s Day in Thailand, the holiday is largely centered on Sirikit, the queen mother of Thailand. Mother’s Day is celebrated on her birthday, Aug. 12, and public places and households sport lights, decorations and portraits of Sirikit while parades and other festivities also occur. Jasmine is a popular gift.
Celebrated on the last Sunday in May, the day isn’t all that different from the U.S. version. There’s breakfast in bed and homemade cards and the like. One difference is that the Swedish Red Cross collects money by selling red plastic flowers. The funds from the flowers go to mothers and children in need.
6. United Kingdom
Mother’s Day in the U.K. is actually Mothering Sunday, and it occurs on the fourth Sunday after Lent. Originally intended to celebrate Mary, the mother of Christ, people were supposed to return to their “mother” church, or the church of their home. The tradition also encouraged family reunions. Today, the day has been somewhat merged with the American concept of Mother’s Day. (Simnel cakes were associated with Mothering Sunday before they became an Easter treat.)
Mother’s Day in Ethiopia, known as Antrosht, is a three-day festival that occurs at the end of the rainy season, normally sometime in October or November. While mothers are celebrated during this period, everyone, including moms, work together to create a sizable feast. The children, however, are responsible for gathering the ingredients.