Mother's Day is a holiday in several nations around the world, celebrated in the United States, Canada, and several other countries on the second Sunday in May, to celebrate motherhood. Other countries use different dates (see below). Often the mother receives gifts.
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Mother's Day in the United States was first proclaimed in 1870 in Boston by Julia Ward Howe, and Howe called for it to be observed each year nationally in 1872. As originally envisioned, Howe's "Mother's Day" was a call for Pacifism and disarmament by women. Early "Mother's Day" was mostly marked by women's peace groups. A common early activity was the meeting of groups of mothers whose sons had fought or died on opposite sides of the American Civil War.
In 1907 Mother's Day was first celebrated in a small private way by Anna Jarvis in Grafton, West Virginia, to commemorate the anniversary of her mother's death two years earlier on May 9, 1905. Jarvis's mother, also named Anna Jarvis, had been active in Mother's Day campaigns for peace and worker's safety and health. The younger Jarvis launched a quest to get wider recognition of Mother's Day. The celebration organized by Jarvis on May 10, 1908 involved 407 children with their mothers at the Andrew's Methodist Church in Grafton. The following campaign to recognize Mother's Day was financed by clothing merchant John Wanamaker. As the custom of Mother's Day spread, the emphasis shifted from the pacificism and reform movements to a general appreciation of mothers. The first official recognition of the holiday was by West Virginia in 1910. A proclamation designating the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day was signed by U.S. president Woodrow Wilson on May 14, 1914.
A tradition calls for the wearing of carnations on Mother's Day—a red one if one's mother is alive, and white if she has died.
The second Sunday of May will fall on the following dates in the next few years:
- Norway: the second Sunday in February
- Lebanon: first day of Spring
- South Africa: first Sunday in May
- Denmark, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Australia, Belgium, Japan, United States: the second Sunday in May
- much of South America (as well as Mexico), Bahrain, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates: May 10
- France, Sweden: last Sunday in May
- Argentina: the second Sunday in October
- Spain, Portugal: December 8