The Casual Reporter: Mother's Day Has Come and Gone

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Mother's Day Has Come and Gone

Those who haven't been paying attention have missed Mother's Day, one of the most widely celebrated festive events of the year. Mother's Day has passed. At least in the UK. Mother's Day is celebrated at different times of the year in different countries, and for different reasons. In the UK it was celebrated on March 2, 2008. In the U.S. it will be celebrated on May 11, 2008, and in France it will be celebrated on May 25, 2008.

Mother's Day in the UK refers to what is historically known as "Mothering Sunday" and falls on the 4th Sunday of Lent. The tradition dates back some 400 years. On Mothering Sunday, also called "Refreshment Sunday" or "Mid-lent Sunday" the rules of Lent were relaxed in honor of "The Feeding of the 5,000" a biblical story. On Mothering Sunday the peasants made a point of not going to their local small churches but instead went to the largest church nearby, the "mother" church. Those who did so would say they had gone "a mothering". Young servants were traditionally only allowed to go home to visit their family once per year, usually on Mothering Sunday. The cooks or maids often allowed the young servants to bake a cake or some other treat to bring home, and the children often picked flowers along the way. Flowers are still a common traditional Mother's Day gift.

Mother's Day in the United States, celebrated on the second Sunday in May, was loosely inspired by the British "Mothering Sunday". Social activist Julia Ward Howe imported the idea after the American Civil War, intending to unite women against war. Her idea was inspired by Ann Jarvis, who created "Mother's Work Days" during the war to help improve sanitation on both sides. Following Ann's death, her daughter Anna Jarvis started a crusade to found a memorial day for mothers. President Woodrow Wilson declared the first Mother's Day in 1914 as a day for American citizens to show the flag in honor of those mothers whose sons had died in war. As the holiday became more commercial, Jarvis campaigned against it, but to no avail. Mother's Day is among the most successful of U.S. occasions and is the most popular day of the year to dine out at a restaurant according to National Restaurant Association.

The French quickly copied the American model and in 1920 France's Interior Minister proclaimed a day of celebration for mothers of large families. World War I had ravaged the male population and the Fete des Meres was an occasion to celebrate fertility, which had become a civic virtue. Later the Vichy regime recognized "The Day of the Mother" for all mothers, without regard to family size, and in 1950 the Fete des Meres was officially inaugurated. It is celebrated in France on the 4th Sunday in May.

Marketing Vox reports that individual consumers will spend $138.63 on average this year, according to the National Retail Federation. Total consumer spending for Mother's Day in the United States is expected to reach $15.8 billion, outlined as follows:

  • $3.0 billion on special dinners or brunch
  • $2.0 billion on flowers
  • $1.6 billion on gift cards/gift certificates
  • $1.4 on clothing and accessories
  • $1.2 billion on consumer electronics like digital cameras, digital photo frames and video cameras
  • $1.1 billion on personal service gifts like a trip to a favorite spa or salon
  • $696 million on housewares and gardening tools
  • $672 million on greeting cards
So it's not too late after all, for United States and French nationals. Order flowers today!

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