Sunday, 11 May 2014


"Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee." - Exodus 20:12

Mother's Day celebrations can be traced back to Spring celebrations of ancient Greece in honour of Rhea, the Mother of the Gods. These celebrations were adopted by the Romans, who merged the festival with that of Cybele, their equivalent Mother goddess. After the rise of Christianity, these ancient rites no doubt contributed to the development of the Marian cult.

During the 1600's, England commemorated a day called “Mothering Sunday”. It was celebrated on the 4th Sunday of Lent and it was so called as the Epistle to the Galatians that is read and refers to “Jerusalem, the mother of us all” (Gal4:26).  “Mothering Sunday” honoured the mothers of England.  During this time many of the England’s poor worked as servants for the wealthy. As most jobs were located far from their homes, the servants would live at the houses of their employers. On Mothering Sunday the servants would have the day off and were encouraged to return home and spend the day with their mothers. A special cake, called the mothering cake, was often brought along to provide a festive touch.

Throughout Europe the celebration continued to primarily honour the “Mother Church” - the spiritual power that gave them life and protected them from harm. However, over time the church festival blended with the Mothering Sunday celebrations. People began honouring their mothers as well as the church.

In the United States Mother’s Day was first suggested in 1872 by Julia Ward Howe (who wrote the words to the Battle hymn of the Republic) as a day dedicated to peace. Ms. Howe would hold organised Mother’s Day meetings in Boston every year. In 1907 Ana Jarvis, from Philadelphia, began a campaign to establish a national Mother’s Day. Ms. Jarvis persuaded her mother’s church in Grafton, West Virginia to celebrate Mother’s Day on the second anniversary of her mother's death, the 2nd Sunday of May. By the next year Mother's Day was also celebrated in Philadelphia.

Ms. Jarvis and her supporters began to write to ministers, businessmen, and politicians in their quest to establish a national Mother's Day. It was successful as by 1911 Mother's Day was celebrated in almost every state. President Woodrow Wilson, in 1914, made the official announcement proclaiming Mother's Day as a national holiday that was to be held each year on the 2nd Sunday of May. While many countries of the world celebrate their own Mother's Day at different times throughout the year, there are some countries such as Denmark, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Australia, and Belgium, which also celebrate Mother's Day on the second Sunday of May. Happy Mother’s Day, Mum!

The painting above is “Susan Comforting the Baby (no.1)” by Mary Cassatt, completion date ca 1881. Mary Stevenson Cassatt (May 22, 1844 – June 14, 1926) was an American painter and printmaker. She lived much of her adult life in France, where she first befriended Edgar Degas and later exhibited among the Impressionists. Cassatt often created images of the social and private lives of women, with particular emphasis on the intimate bonds between mothers and children. She was described by Gustave Geffroy in 1894 as one of “les trois grandes dames” of Impressionism alongside Marie Bracquemond and Berthe Morisot.

1 comment:

  1. Perfect timing :) I couldn't give my mum the mothering cake, but I certainly brought her gorgeous flowers to provide the festive touch.

    Re the painting. The viewer can pick a Cassatt very easily, because of the intimate bond between the mother and baby in her portrait *nod*. Sensitive, caring, natural. But I have a concern about how limited Cassatt was, when it came to getting out and about town alone. How could she depict all the scenes that male Impressionist artists could depict, unless she had a male chaperon? Women should depict mothering because they love the theme, not because they have no other choices.