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Mother’s Day: Is it a national holiday? Why is it celebrated today? Origin & meaning

Mother’s Day will be celebrated in the United States on 8 May 2022. We take a look at the history and origins of the day.

Kieran Quaile
ANTALYA, TURKEY - APRIL 29 : Cut flowers are prepared to put on sale for the Mothers' Day, in Antalya, Turkey on April 29, 2022. Flowers produced in greenhouses are collected and packed in warehouses and are prepared for domestic and foreign markets. (Photo by Orhan Cicek/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Anadolu AgencyGetty

Mother’s Day in the United States is annually held on the second Sunday of May, therefore the date changes each year. It is a time to appreciate mothers and mother figures.

Mother’s Day origins

The origins of Mother’s Day as celebrated in the United States date back to the 19th century. Mother’s Day in the United States dates back to 1907 when Anna Jarvis wanted to mark the death of her mother, Anna Reeves Jarvis, an activist who cared who injured soldiers from both sides during the American Civil War.

Jarvis then organised the first official Mother’s Day celebration in Grafton in May 1908, West Virginia. After initial success at the local level, Jarvis set her sights on making the day a national affair. She argued that American holidays were too biased towards male achievements and began a writing campaign on behalf of the cause.

By 1912 an official Mother’s Day was recognised in towns and states across the country, and in 1914 it was officially established as a federal holiday when President Woodrow Wilson signed an executive measure. Wilson’s measure declared that the second Sunday of May be a national holiday in the US.

Mother’s Day celebrations

Celebrations of mothers can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who held festivals in honor of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele. The clearest modern precedent for Mother’s Day is the early Christian festival known as “Mothering Sunday.

In the UK and in parts of Europe, this celebration fell on the fourth Sunday in Lent and was originally seen as a time when the faithful would return to their “mother church”, the main church in the vicinity of their home, for a special service.

Is Mother’s Day a national holiday?

Mother’s Day is not a public holiday, however, it is a national holiday. Businesses and stores are open like on any other Sunday in the year. Public transit systems also operate with their normal Sunday schedules.

Legally, Mother’s Day is a state holiday in Arizona. However, because it always falls on a Sunday, most state government offices and employees observe their Sunday schedule on the day.

Mother’s Day has also been a date for launching political or feminist causes. In 1968 Coretta Scott King, wife of Martin Luther King, Jr., used Mother’s Day to host a march in support of underprivileged women and children.


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