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The History of Mother's Day

Early festivals relating to the celebration of Mother's day can be traced as far back as ancient Greece, where spring ceremonies honouring Rhea, Mother of the Gods, were held.

The memorial that is now known as Mother's Day was first formally introduced in America in the late 1800's by Julia Ward Howe, writer of the words to the Battle Hymn of the Republic. She was responsible for organising a Mass in Boston every year as a day dedicated to peace.

More specifically, Mother's Day can be contributed to Anna Jarvis who organised the first formal program as a tribute to her deceased Mother, Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis. May 9, 1908, on the third anniversary of her mother's death, Miss Jarvis and the Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton and Philadelphia held a service with a general observance to honour all mothers.

A telegram sent by Anna Jarvis defined the purpose of the day:

"...To revive the dormant filial love and gratitude we owe to those who gave us birth. To be a home tie for the absent. To obliterate family estrangement. To create a bond of brotherhood through the wearing of a floral badge. To make us better children by getting us closer to the hearts of our good mothers. To brighten the lives of good mothers. To have them know we appreciate them, though we do not show it as often as we ought..."

This Mother's Day service became a regular celebration that developed as she, and others, began successfully campaigning to ministers, businessmen and politicians to make it a national holiday.

On April 26, 1910, Governor William E. Glasscock of West Virginia issued the first Mother's Day proclamation. In May 1914, at the request of Miss Jarvis, Representative Heflin of Alabama and Senator Sheppard of Texas introduced a joint resolution naming the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day. This resolution was passed in both Houses, with President Woodrow Wilson approving it and William Jennings Bryan, Secretary of State, proclaiming it.

In President's Woodrow's following proclamation, he ordered that the flag be displayed on all government buildings in the U.S. and foreign possessions. Later Mr. Heflin, co-author of the resolution said: "The flag was never used in a more beautiful and sacred cause than when flying above that tender, gentle army, the mothers of America."

Along with New Zealand, around 46 other countries, including America, Italy, Australia, Denmark, Finland, Turkey and Belgium celebrate Mothers Day, most on the second Sunday of May. Many people follow the custom on Mother's Day of wearing a carnation. A coloured carnation means that a person's mother is living while a white carnation honours a person's mother who is dead.