Making Mother’s Day Really Count
Mother’s Day is one of those holidays you kind of just take for granted. You used to lovingly string macaroni on multicolored yarn way back in grade school. Maybe you helped your father pick out the perfect (albeit last-minute) gift. It’s just always been around, right? You might be surprised by the complicated history of Mother’s Day, but don’t worry—we think there’s a good lesson in the end.
The Origins of Mother’s Day
The modern version of Mother’s Day was first celebrated way back in 1908 at the behest of Anna Maria Jarvis—or maybe, more accurately, her own mother. Jarvis’ mother frequently expressed the desire for such a holiday. Three years after her mother’s death Jarvis held a memorial ceremony to honor her own mother and all mothers. She didn’t attend the service at Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia herself—but she did send a heartfelt telegram and five hundred white carnations for the attendees. The white carnation was chosen to be the symbol of Mother’s Day for good reason. In Jarvis’ words,
“Its whiteness is to symbolize the truth, purity and broad-charity of mother love; its fragrance, her memory, and her prayers. The carnation does not drop its petals, but hugs them to its heart as it dies, and so, too, mothers hug their children to their hearts, their mother love never dying. When I selected this flower, I was remembering my mother’s bed of white pinks.”
An Unexpected Turn
For all of Anna Jarvis’ well-meaning efforts, the story unfortunately doesn’t end here. Over her lifetime, she became increasingly disillusioned by the growing commercialism of the holiday at the hands of floral, confectionery and greeting card industries. In her own words again:
A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment.
As carnation prices skyrocketed she attempted to popularize a new badge-style emblem for the holiday. She even tried to have the holiday rescinded. Though some profited heavily from Mother’s Day, Jarvis herself fell into economic hardship. She ultimately moved in with her sister, having never started a family of her own.
The Real Meaning of Mother’s Day
For Jarvis, Mother’s Day was meant to be celebrated with a pure expression of appreciation and love for the mothers who work tirelessly and selflessly all year long. Especially in these times, it’s important to remember this part of the story. We can all take a page from her book. This year, let’s celebrate our mothers and loved ones with genuine expressions of affection that don’t cost a thing.
This year, you can show the mother in your life what she means to you without spending money on expensive bouquets that will quickly wilt. Instead, you could plant a pot or bed of her favorite flowers and help her tend to them. Give her a few hours to do whatever she pleases while you take care of whatever else she’d otherwise have been saddled with. Use your words to tell her why you appreciate her and what she means to you. All you have to do is take some time to earnestly think about what she as a person would appreciate. At end of the day, it’s important to make sure you recognize her endless (and often invisible) labor and contributions. That, ultimately, means more to a mom than another piece of jewelry.