Sunday, May 8, 2011

The tragic story behind Mother's Day

A few days ago an elderly member of my church asked me about the origin of Mother's Day. I admitted that I honestly didn't have a clue. Now I know.

Mother’s Day, which falls this year on May 8, is meant to be a joyous event, but the story behind this greeting-card occasion is actually quite tragic.

The concept dates back to the 1600s in England. Taking place on the fourth Sunday of Lent, “Mothering Sunday” was an annual opportunity for Christians to visit their hometown church. It slowly evolved, as children working far away as domestic servants came back home to spend time with their mothers and family.

The modern version of Mother’s Day took form in the early 20th century, thanks to Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis and her daughter Anna.

Born in 1832 in Virginia, Ann Marie was a social activist whose goal was to improve health and sanitary conditions inside community households. Her Mother’s Day Work Clubs raised money for medicine and hired help for moms suffering from tuberculosis. During the American Civil War, Ann Marie lost four of her children to disease; in total, eight of her 12 offspring died before reaching adulthood. Despite her personal tragedies, Ann Marie never stopped her community service.

Ann Marie died on the second Sunday in May of 1905. After she passed away, her daughter Anna made it her mission to make Mother’s Day a holiday – not only to honour her mother, but all mothers.

On the second Sunday in May of 1907, Anna held a small memorial service for her mother at Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, Va. The mourners present received a white carnation, which had been Ann Marie’s favourite flower. Anna organized another one a year later, and this service is generally accepted as the first official Mother’s Day event.
You can read the rest of the story here: The tragic story behind Mother's Day - World - CBC News

How and when and why the church got on board with this holiday is still unclear to me.  For the record our church does not alter its liturgy on this occasion though we do not hold Christian Education or evening worship since so many people travel to see loved ones.

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