Why is US Mother’s Day on a different date to other countries?
Like the United States, many countries hold Mother’s Day on the second Sunday of May. However, many other nations celebrate the day on a different date.
A celebration that honours motherhood, Mother’s Day is held annually around the world on a range of different dates. It is observed on the second Sunday of May in the United States, where its origins lie in a West Virginia woman’s efforts to celebrate the good deeds of her late mother.
How Mother’s Day started in the US
In the early 20th century, Anna Jarvis wished to commemorate her mother Ann Jarvis, an activist who had looked after injured soldiers during the American Civil War, and had set up women’s groups to promote health and friendship.
On 12 May 1907, the second anniversary of Ann’s death, Jarvis held a memorial service at her mother’s church in Grafton, West Virginia, and went on to campaign for Mother’s Day to be installed as a yearly celebration in the US. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed an executive order proclaiming the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.
Initially, white carnations - Ann’s favourite flower - were handed out on Mother’s Day in the US, before the current tradition of giving cards, flowers and gifts took over. This led Jarvis to become so disenchanted with the commercialisation of the holiday that she unsuccessfully fought to have it abolished.
Mother’s Day across the world
Many nations around the world - around 100 - have followed the US’ lead in celebrating Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May. Many others have opted for a different date, for a variety of reasons.
In the United Kingdom and Ireland, for example, Mother’s Day is held on the fourth Sunday in Lent - the 40-weekday period before the Christian religious festival Easter. This is because their modern, secular Mother’s Day stems from the religious celebration Mothering Sunday, which began in the Middle Ages. On Mothering Sunday, Christians would visit their ‘mother’, or primary, church. Because of its association with Easter, the date of Mother’s Day in the UK and Ireland can greatly vary.
There is also religious significance in other countries’ choice of date. In Panama, like the UK a predominantly Christian country, Mother’s Day is on 8 December, coinciding with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
There are also countries that have opted to tie their Mother’s Day to a specific date of national importance. In Bolivia, Mother’s Day commemorates the Heroínas de la Coronilla, a group of women who on 27 May 1812 fought in the Battle of Pocona in the Bolivian War of Independence. In Thailand, it is celebrated on 12 August, the birthday of Sirikit Kitikayara, the Thai queen mother.
In some countries, meanwhile, Mother’s Day is scheduled to coincide with International Women’s Day, held on 8 March.