A Day to Honor Mom — With a Past You May Not Know


A Day to Honor Mom — With a Past You May Not Know

When I was growing up, my dad referred to Mother’s Day and Father’s Day as “Hallmark holidays” — but woe would certainly fall on any of us kids who failed to appropriately honor our mom on her special day. The most memorable Mother’s Day I can remember resulted in a line that’s part of our family lore: “one bite and you’re full.” Wonder what that means? Read on.

My mom passed on her cooking genes to me and my two sisters. Thus, at the tender age of around 11, I asked to make the Mother’s Day meal for my immediate family as well as both grandmothers. I chose Hungarian goulash for the main course — lord knows why; I’d never made it before or since — and it turned out great. It was the dessert I made that gave me fits.

Anything chocolate was not an option, since my mom doesn’t like it, so I decided on angel food cake. For the non-bakers reading this, what’s challenging about an angel food cake — at least for a pre-teen — is separating eggs. I understood the whites and the yolks needed to be separate, but I didn’t realize failing to do so with absolute perfection would doom my cake.

After the success of the main course, I proudly came out of the kitchen with my 2-inch high, lavender-frosted cake. The adults all knew immediately that something had gone wrong, but they said nothing as I cut pieces for everyone. It was my youngest sister, five years my junior, who uttered the now infamous line after trying the cake: “one bite and you’re full.”

It was then explained to me what I’d done wrong, and I don’t recall being upset, just disappointed that my Mother’s Day meal hadn’t been flawless. To this day, I’ve never made another angel food cake, and I use a plastic tool anytime I have to separate eggs.

While I have plenty of experience giving Mother’s Day gifts, I’ve never received one since I have no children — at least none of the two-legged kind. I was very touched when a friend sent me a Mother’s Day card honoring my status as a dog mama; I can see how this type of adulation is quite appealing.

Before we get into some Mother’s Day options, do you ever wonder how this holiday got started? I did. (Hint: Hallmark didn’t create it.)

In the Beginning

In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation designating Mother’s Day — the second Sunday in May — as a national holiday to honor mothers. Anna Marie Jarvis, who created Mother’s Day in 1908, later became resentful of the commercialization of the holiday and spent the latter part of her life trying to get it removed from the calendar.

Believe it or not, the history of Mother’s Day is filled with controversy and conflict — and plenty of things you probably don’t know. For example:

  • Mother’s Day started as an anti-war movement. While Jarvis is most often credited with creating the holiday, Julia Ward Howe, the writer of “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” promoted a Mothers’ Peace Day beginning in 1872. For her and other anti-war activists, Mother’s Day was a way to promote global unity after the American Civil War and Europe’s Franco-Prussian War.

  • A former football coach was accused of trying to kidnap the holiday. Frank Hering, a former football coach and faculty member at the University of Notre Dame, proposed the idea of Mother’s Day before Jarvis, in 1904, suggesting setting aside one day each year as a nationwide memorial to the memory of mothers and motherhood. Jarvis didn’t like the thought of Mother’s Day having a “father,” and blasted Hering in a 1920s statement, “Kidnapping Mother’s Day: Will You Be an Accomplice?”

  • FDR tried to design a Mother’s Day stamp. He actually personally designed a 1934 postage stamp to commemorate the day — featuring the famed “Whistler’s Mother” portrait. Jarvis didn’t approve of the design and refused to allow the words “Mother’s Day” to appear on the stamp.

  • Jarvis hated those who fundraised off the holiday and lost everything in her fight to protect it. She was aghast at profiteers who used the day as just another way to make money and she went broke battling the commercialization of Mother’s Day.

  • Courts heard “custody battles” over Mother’s Day. Jarvis considered Mother’s Day her intellectual and legal property — and she wasn’t shy about lawyering up to defend what she saw as her rights. A 1944 Newsweek article reported that she once had as many as 33 pending Mother’s Day lawsuits.

  • Flowers are an original Mother’s Day tradition. The white carnation — the favorite flower of Jarvis’ mother — was the original flower of Mother’s Day.

One other thing of note: Jarvis never had any children.

Around the World

Mother’s Day certainly isn’t limited to the U.S. Many other countries celebrate it, with a large number — including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil and Canada — also doing so on the second Sunday in May. Here are a few of the most interesting facts I learned about global Mother’s Day:

India. A country that has countless festivals, India has only recently adopted Mother’s Day — on the same day America celebrates — with great success. It’s considered a remarkable achievement for a foreign festival to make its presence felt in this vast and culturally diverse country.

Germany. Mother’s Day has been an official holiday in Germany since 1933. Until World War II, it was tradition to honor mothers with gold, silver and bronze medals, called “Karnickelorden,” which denoted “Order of the Rabbit.”

Japan. Mother’s Day has become a highly revered holiday in Japan, celebrated by giving different types of flowers — such as carnations and roses — to mothers. People also organize for special prayers and public gatherings on Mother’s Day

France. The French observe Mother’s Day on the last Sunday in May, or a week later when Pentecost day conflicts. The holiday became official in 1950 and is one of the country’s best-liked celebrations.

Treating Your Mom

How will you honor your mother on Mother’s Day? If you don’t live in the same place, you may settle on a nice card, send flowers or chocolates, or choose another thoughtful gift you know she’ll love. If you want to earn major brownie points, plan a surprise visit — she’s sure to be thrilled!

If your mom is local, perhaps the best gift you can give her is spending time together. Invite her to your place for a home-cooked meal, take her out for a great brunch or dinner, or plan an excursion you know she’ll enjoy. Your options are endless, everything from a round of golf and a visit to a museum to great seats to a play or at a ballpark — and more. You know what will best exhilarate your mom!


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