History of the American Mother’s Day Celebration
When the first English settlers came to America, they discontinued the tradition of Mothering Day. While the British holiday would live on, the American Mother’s Day would be invented — with an entirely new history — centuries later. One explanation for the settlers’ discontinuation of Mothering Day was that they just didn’t have time; they lived under harsh conditions and were forced to work long hours in order to survive. Another possibility, however, is that Mothering Day conflicted with their Puritan ideals. Fleeing England to practice a more conservative Christianity without being persecuted, the pilgrims ignored the more secular holidays, focusing instead on a no-frills devotion to God. For example, even holidays such as Christmas and Easter were more somber occasions for the pilgrims, usually taking place in a Church that was stripped of all extraneous ornamentation.
US Government Adoption
In 1908 a U.S. Senator from Nebraska, Elmer Burkett, proposed making Mother’s Day a national holiday at the request of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). The proposal was defeated, but by 1909 forty-six states were holding Mother’s Day services as well as parts of Canada and Mexico.
Anna Jarvis quit working and devoted herself full time to the creation of Mother’s Day, endlessly petitioning state governments, business leaders, women groups, churches and other institutions and organizations. She finally convinced the World’s Sunday School Association to back her, a key influence over state legislators and congress. In 1912 West Virginia became the first state to officially recognize Mother’s Day, and in 1914 Woodrow Wilson signed it into national observance, declaring the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.
When the United States congress approved Mother’s Day in 1914, they designated it for the second Sunday in May, and required that the President proclaim the Holiday every year shortly prior to its commencement. A recent example of a presidential Mother’s Day proclamation can be seen here.
Typically, a family in the U.S. will devote most or all of Mother’s Day to activities in honor of Mom, whether playing games, going out to dinner, taking the weekend off or going on a walk in the park.
It is common to give Mom a card on Mother’s Day. Flowers are also popular. Younger children frequently give Mom a homemade craft gift; older children and adults typically give Mom a purchased gift for Mother’s Day.
Mother’s Day Is Highly Commercialized
Indeed, within the United States, Mother’s Day is highly commercialized:
- The National Retail Foundation estimates that Mother’s Day is a $16 Billion industry.
- Florists see their highest sales in May.
- US restaurants claim that it is the busiest day of the year.
- Long distance telephone calls also peak on this day.
- The US Postal Service experiences increased volume during the surrounding days.
- According to Hallmark (via About.com), 96% of American consumers take part in shopping on Mother’s Day, while retailers report it as the second highest gift giving day of the year behind Christmas.
- Consumers spent an average of $172 per person on Mom for Mother’s Day in 2016.
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