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How the world celebrates Mother's Day

Updated: Apr 26

✦ Mother’s Day is a truly special occasion where we all get the chance to show our genuine love and thanks to that one very special person in our lives.

Mum’s the word!

It goes without saying that it’s not only one solitary day each year where we do this, but Mother’s Day affords the opportunity for Mum’s all over to rightfully stand front and centre, take a day off and be lavished with attention!

Mother's Day is widely celebrated around the world
Mother's Day is widely celebrated around the world

Let’s face it, mothers are bona fide superstars! Not only do they carry and nurture us for a whole nine months before we are born but they raise us with an unconditional love and support that only a mother can, through our infant and petulant teenage years all the way up to and beyond our own adult lives. They help us make sense of the world, installing our emotional fibre and establishing our moral compass and are always there to turn to for invaluable advice and direction. We love our Mums, that’s for sure!

But what about a little history and insight into how the occasion originated and how it is celebrated across the world?


Ancient Greeks

Mother’s Day is celebrated all over the world and has been for centuries. The ancient Greeks worshipped Rhea as the ‘Mother of Gods,’ celebrating via an annual spring festival to honour the goddess of nature and fertility.

Ancient Rome

Similarly, the spring festival of Hilaria was celebrated in ancient Rome on the Ides of March (March 15) some 250 years before Christ was born to honor of mother goddess Cybele where festivities including games, parades and masquerades would last for three days.


During Medieval times, apprentices and servants were allowed leave on Mothering Sunday in order to travel home and visit their mothers. The popular custom was to take a special Mother’s Day cake known as a Simnel cake, a rich fruit mixture with layers of almond paste in the middle and on top, decorated with 11 marzipan balls to represent the apostles of Jesus (minus Judas Iscariot).

Simnel cake for Mother's Day during Medieval times
Simnel cake for Mother's Day during Medieval times


Mother’s Day was adopted in the 16th century by Christians in the lead up to Easter as part of their Lenten traditions each year to honour the Virgin Mary. This is why Mother’s Day is celebrated in the UK on a different date to most other places in the world, exactly three weeks before Easter Sunday (it was celebrated on March 27 in the UK this year).

It was also during this period that the tradition of giving gifts became popular as families would reunite for a Mothering Sunday service at church and often children would pick flowers en route which they would then present to their mothers as gift bouquets, hence why the giving of flowers is still such a popular one.

Present day origins


Elsewhere, Mother’s Day tends to follow the traditional American date of the second Sunday in the month of May. This was established on May 12, 1907 by Philadelphia resident Anna Jarvis who wished to not only hold a memorial service for her late mother, who had died two years prior, but to mark a day when all mothers and the sacrificies they make could be honoured by their children.

The practice gained popularity as commemorative church services spread throughout America, leading to then President Woodrow Wilson in 1914 officially proclaiming the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day, describing the day “as a public expression of love and reverence for the mothers of our country.”

Nowadays, Mother’s Day is, of course, a major celebration. According to statistics from the U.S. National Retail Federation published by Fox Business, an estimated US$31.7 billion was forcecast to be spent on Mother’s Day in the U.S. alone this year. Approximately 23 million flowers are sold on Mother’s Day each year, and about 122 million phone calls are made. Big numbers and big business.


In Japan Mother’s Day gained popularity after World War II as a way of comforting mothers who had lost sons to the war. Celebrated on the same date nowadays as in the U.S., ‘Haha No Hi’ is an extremely popular date in the Land of the Rising Sun where red carnations are typically given to symbolise a mother’s purity, sweetness and endurance.

Haha No Hi - Japanese Mother's Day as featured on Brilliant-Online
Haha No Hi - Japanese Mother's Day


The celebration falls slightly later in France, on the last Sunday of May, where the traditional gift of a flower-shaped cake is given to mothers across the country. Interestingly, for a period after World War I mothers of large families were given medals by the government as recognition and thanks for helping rebuild the population after so many lives had been lost during conflict.


In Ethiopia, families celebrate Mother’s Day on the second Sunday of May in the form of the Antrosht festival. Typically signifying the end of the rainy season, families convene and celebrate over a large meal while engaging in song and dance performances that honour their mothers and other family heroes.


India always loves a good festival and Mother’s Day is no different! Taking place in October and dating all the way back to the 16th century, the country honours the goddess of mothers known as Durga where a 10-day festival is held and families spend weeks preparing food, decorating their homes and gathering gifts.


Finally, we turn to Thailand. The Royal family is highly revered in the Land of Smiles which explains why Mother’s Day there takes place on the set date of August 12 each year to coincide with the birthday of the much loved and respected Queen Sirikit. Families gather to eat and share memories and elaborate parades and ceremonies take place to honour the dual intentions of the holiday.

Wherever, whenever and however you celebrate your Mother’s Day, the one thing in common is it is an occasion to honour and respect the family matriarch, to show her how much you love her and how grateful you are for everything she has done and continues to do.

Some of our Brilliant Mothers

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to all Mums out there!


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