Ever wondered why Mother’s Day is celebrated on different days in other countries? Or why we even celebrate it in the first place.

Mothers Day (which is coming up this Sunday 8th May in New Zealand) is actually from a number of different origins.

Some believe that this special day emerged from a custom of mother worship in ancient Greece, which kept a festival to Cybele, a great mother of Greek gods. The ancient Romans also had another holiday, Matronalia, which was dedicated to Juno, though mothers were usually given gifts on this day. In some countries the Mother’s Day began not as a celebration for individual mothers but rather for Christians.

Mothering Sunday in Britain & Ireland
Mothering Sunday falls on the fourth Sunday of Lent (exactly three weeks before Easter Sunday). The belief is that the day originated from the 16th century from the Christian practice of visiting one’s mother church annually, which meant that most mothers would be reunited with their children on this day. Most historians believe that young apprentices and young women in servitude were released by their masters that weekend in order to visit their families.

Mother’s Day in the United States
In the United States, the establishment of Mothers Day was loosely inspired by the British day and was imported by social activist Julia Ward Howe after the American Civil War. However, it was intended as a call to unite women against war. In 1870, she wrote the Mother’s Day Proclamation as a call for peace and disarmament. Her idea was influenced by Ann Jarvis, a young Appalachian homemaker who, starting in 1858, had attempted to improve sanitation through what she called Mothers’ Work Days.

When Jarvis died in 1907, her daughter, named Anna Jarvis, started the crusade to found a memorial day for women. The first such Mother’s Day was celebrated in Grafton, West Virginia, on 10 May, 1908, in the church where the elder Ann Jarvis had taught Sunday School. In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson declared the first national Mother’s Day, as a day for American citizens to show the flag in honor of those mothers whose sons had died in war. Ironically, nine years after the first official Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis herself became a major opponent of what the holiday had become.

Mother’s Day around the world
In most countries, Mother’s Day is a new concept copied from western civilisation. In many African countries, the idea of one Mother’s Day has its origins in copying the British concept, although there are many festivals and events celebrating mothers within the many diverse cultures on the African continent that have been there centuries before the colonials arrived.

In New Zealand, Mothers Day 2016 will be one day where we take time to be with or think of our Mums. Many choose to show their thanks in the form of gifts, or by doing something special. If nothing else, it is a great day to ensure Mum doesn’t get into the kitchen – so be sure to click on the recipe search field above and get cooking and creative for Mum. Or pick your local cafe and book for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner as a treat!