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The Origins and Celebration of Mother’s Day

Mother's Day

Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise all women who have hearts,
Whether your baptism be that of water or of tears

Julia Ward Howe, 1870

The Mother’s Day we’ve come to know is a relatively recent tradition celebrated in many countries around the world, but where did it originate?

The ancient Egyptians honored a mother deity, the goddess Isis, who was regarded as the mother of the pharaohs. The Romans not only celebrated Isis in a three day festival that marked the beginning of winter, but also celebrated Cybele, the mother of most of the major deities like Zeus. While the ancient Greeks celebrated Rhea, other ancient societies worshipped Gaia, the earth mother.

In the Roman Catholic religion, the holiday is strongly associated with the Virgin Mary. Shrines devoted to Mary are still erected and prayer services are held in her honour. During the Renaissance period, England created a celebratory day to include real mothers and called it Mothering day.

In modern-day Egypt, the idea was introduced by a journalist who had heard the story of a single mother who had devoted her whole life to raising her son, only to be left alone in the end without any gratitude.

Even though many cultures have been celebrating similar traditions that have honoured motherhood for many years, the commercial concept originated and spread from North America, where some find it offensive not to celebrate the day to other parts of the world where others still know very little of it or enjoy it only for its foreign cultural traits.

The first real Mother’s Day was created by Julia Ward Howe’s sadness caused by the death of the sons of the mothers she knew (and the ones she didn’t) during the American Civil War. She wrote the declaration below calling on all mothers to celebrate peace and motherhood.


Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise all women who have hearts,
Whether your baptism be that of water or of tears
Say firmly:

“We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands shall not come to us reeking of carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of
charity, mercy and patience.

“We women of one country
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says, “Disarm, Disarm!”
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice!
Blood does not wipe out dishonor
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have of ten forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war.

Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.

Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace,
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God.

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient
And at the earliest period consistent with its objects
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions.
The great and general interests of peace.

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One Response to The Origins and Celebration of Mother’s Day

  1. Hlmi June 27th, 2012 at 9:55 am #

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