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When Is Mother’s Day and How Did It Start?

Chris Weeks, Getty Images

For those of you that may not know, Mother’s Day will be here soon. On May 12th, sons, daughters, husbands and wives will come together to celebrate a nearly 100 year old tradition started by a West Virginia woman.

But, what’s the deal with Mother’s Day and when did it come about?

Celebrations honoring women have been around for thousands of years. Long ago, the Greeks held spring festivals to honor Rhea, the mother of the gods. Christians used the fourth Sunday of Lent to honor Mary, the mother of Christ.

But, Mother’s Day as we know it in the U.S. was started fairly recently. Anna Jarvis, an Appalachian homemaker, started celebrating Mother’s Day about 150 years ago. The day remained small and community-based until her death in 1905.

Her daughter, also named Anna, then took over the mantle and started to drum up support for the special day by hob-knobbing with politicians and business owners. As interest started to grow, Jarvis added small details to the festivities including the introduction of the white carnation, which has become synonymous with the day.

By 1914, Mother’s Day became a national holiday and was celebrated by going to church and by purchasing presents and flowers. But as the holiday grew, so did the profits derived from gift giving and card buying.

Jarvis became enraged with what her holiday had become, believing that the day had warped itself into a commodity. Therefore, in 1923, she did what every red-blooded American does nowadays and filed a lawsuit to stop it. She then took it one step further and got arrested for disturbing the peace during a convention for mothers.

Even worse, in 1948, while on her deathbed, Jarvis claimed she regretted ever introducing the idea to the unwitting public.

Still, although starting from humble beginnings, Mother’s Day has risen into the upper echelon of card and gift giving holidays. In 2012, more than 141 million cards were sent in the U.S., placing it third on the list of most cards sent behind Valentine’s Day and Christmas. It’s also become the second most popular day for giving a gift.

With all that said, don’t forget to buy your mom a gift and a card for her special day, because at one point in time there was an angry Appalachian woman protesting your right to do so.

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