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Mother's Day

Where do holidays come from?

The origins of Mother's Day

From CNN Interactive Writer Douglas S. Wood


It's come to this. Once again, it's Mother's Day and you are standing there in the card shop, groaning inwardly, thinking that this is another one of those Hallmark holidays, created by business to pump up the bottom line.

Mother's Day is the third-largest card-sending holiday, with 147 million cards being mailed last year, according to the folks at Hallmark. But they had nothing to do with the holiday's creation.

Others proposed the idea first but Anna M. Jarvis of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, created what became Mother's Day after the death of her mother in 1905. Jarvis was reportedly concerned over mothers being neglected by their adult children, according to "Celebrations: The Complete Book of American Holidays," which, curiously enough, is co-authored by the editors of Hallmark Cards. More about those editors later.

Jarvis envisioned a religious holiday and the first Mother's Day celebration was held in two churches, in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, on May 10, 1908.

Possibly sensing a trend and a new way to appeal to voters, Congress got in on the act. The House of Representatives voted in 1913 to request that the president, the Cabinet, members of the House and Senate, and government officials wear a white carnation on Mother's Day. For etiquette mavens, another book says to wear red or pink carnations for living mothers and white carnations for mothers who have died. President Woodrow Wilson issued a presidential proclamation officially creating the holiday, and Hallmark began making cards for the holiday in the 1920s.

A side note: In 1934, a newspaper editor in Amarillo, Texas, proposed a companion holiday -- Mothers-In-Law Day. The editor reported "several families" celebrated the idea. But for reasons lost to history, it never caught on.

Back to Jarvis. The creator of Mother's Day never experienced the joys of motherhood and died alone in 1948. The editors at Hallmark noted that she became "disillusioned" as the holiday became more commercial.

Family ties     Who started it?     Mom-a-meters
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