As you will likely already know, Mother's Day is an annual celebration of our Mother's. But is there any history behind its significance and its introduction? Similarly, we have Father's Day and more recently the introduction of Grandparent's Day. But where did these come from, what is the reason for celebrating them, and are they observed across the world?
In the United Kingdom, Mother's Day is linked to the Christian church. Mothering Sunday, as it was originally known, is the day where your mother church should be honoured. The mother church is classed as the church within which you were baptised, and as a result, is the mother of your new life within Christianity. This celebration has been prevalent since the Middle Ages and always falls on the fourth Sunday in Lent. This, therefore, means the date changes every year.
Historically you would visit your mother church/church where you were baptised as part of the celebrations and it had little to do with an actual maternal figure.
It has become customary over the years to extend this celebration to honouring our own mothers and other maternal influences within our lives. This is in part due to the fact that in the past, domestic servants were given the day off on Mothering Sunday to enable them to visit their mother church. They would commonly attend with their own mothers and other family members. Mothering Sunday is more commonly known as Mother's Day in current times. Its popularity in the modern day is still relatively new. It was as recently as 1913 when efforts were made to make Mother's Day day an established national celebration. It later became widely celebrated and popular during the 1950s across the United Kingdom and other countries of the Commonwealth. Despite the fact that Mother's day now has little to do with religious observance, it still follows the church calendar and will always fall on the fourth Sunday before Lent, 3 weeks before Easter Sunday, with the date moving each year due to Easter not being celebrated on the same date annually.
In the United States of America, Mother's Day is also celebrated, however, this is a different celebration to that of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. Mother's Day in the US is more of a commercial holiday than a religious observance. As a result of this, it is not observed at the same time as Mother's Day in the UK and always falls on the second Sunday of May. It makes it easier to remember I suppose! Many other countries across the world also observe Mother's Day as derived from the holiday celebrated in the United States rather than a religion based observance. Each country has their own way of honouring this day, and many of them over different dates across the year. In Australia they celebrate on the second Sunday in May the same as the United States, however, they honour the day with a special church service so there is a partial religious aspect to their observance. However, it has only been commonplace since the 1920s to celebrate Mother's Day.
Despite the fact that each country has their own way of celebrating and their own date to observe the celebration, there is a common theme throughout. Often people will use the day to spend time with their mothers, and will also present them with gifts. For younger children, this is commonly something that they have made as a token of their love and affection. Popular dates for Mother's Day across the world are the second Sunday in May, International Women's Day, and the first day of Spring.
So what about Father's Day?
In a similar fashion to Mother's Day, Father's Day is again celebrated across the world in many different guises and across different dates. In some places, it is also recognised as a public holiday. June appears to be the most common month for Father's Day with many countries including the United Kingdom & United States of America observing it on the 3rd Sunday of June. Some other countries have a specific date in June, for example, the Seychelles on June 16th, and Egypt on June 21st. Interestingly with regard to Egypt and their choice of June 21st, this is the date of the summer solstice. Egypt celebrates Mother's Day on the first day of spring therefore it is apparent that they link these celebrations to the seasons rather than a fixed date or a religious observance. The summer solstice is of particular importance in Egypt as it marks the appearance of Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. The importance of this is because following the appearance of the star, the Nile would overflow highlighting the start of the flood season. This is important to nourish and regenerate the land.
Australia also chooses to observe Father's Day in relation to the seasons. It is observed here on the first Sunday of September which is actually the first day of spring in Australia. It is recognised as a national holiday but not as a public holiday. It didn't become popular in Australia until the 1930s, and at this time it was observed in June like the majority of the rest of the world. New Zealand also celebrates Father's Day on the first Sunday of September, and like Australia originally celebrated in June until 1937. Australia changed their date of celebration to September in 1935. In a similar fashion to Mother's Day, the day is often spent with your father and commonly involves presenting them with token gifts. It is primarily a commercially based holiday, however it does have historical significance within the Catholic countries of Europe. Since the Middle Ages, it had been celebrated on March 19th as St. Joseph's day, as a feast day in Honour of St. Joseph, husband of the Virgin Mary. However, despite this, in the current day, it has little relevance to the common Father's Day celebrations.
So where did Grandparents Day come from?
This is actually older than I had realised with the first introduction being in the United States of America in 1978. As is the case with Father's Day and Mother's Day, it is a day to honour your grandparents and spend time with them. It is not as commonplace as the other celebrations, however it does have prevalence across the world with many countries having a specified day on which they can celebrate if they choose. There is no religious aspect to this holiday and no historical significance of note.
In the United Kingdom it is observed on the first Sunday in October, this date was introduced in 2008, however the celebration was originally introduced in 1990 by Age Concern, a UK based charity. It has little popularity and observance in the UK, and as a result, little commercial activity surrounding it. In the United States It is a much older tradition following its introduction in the 1970's and observance of it is on August 3rd. The forget-me-not is the flower associated with the celebration, and often flowers are given to grandparents in appreciation on this day.