As I understand the history of Mother’s Day, it was first proposed by Anna Marie Jarvis, a woman from West Virginia. Jarvis was a Christian woman who, during her Sunday school lessons as a little girl, found inspiration for just such a day. As Anna grew up, she continued to nurtured the idea of creating a “mother’s day.” In 1908, three years after the death of her own mother, Jarvis held a ceremony in honour of her mother and all mothers at her local church.
The idea of such a day grew in popularity. By 1914, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson declared it as a national holiday. Soon, nations around the world followed suit. Canada has not recognized the day as a national holiday, but it is nonetheless celebrated here, along with an impressive array of countries around the globe that have some form of celebration. But like all good ideas, commercial interests were soon to follow. By the 1920s, Hallmark had started selling Mother’s Day cards, and florists and other merchants also capitalized on the economic benefits. For her part, Anna Marie Jarvis strongly disagreed. She thought commercialization was hindering the true intent of Mother’s Day.
Today, in the U.S. alone, some 21 billion dollars are spent in cards, flowers and gifts. Fascinatingly enough, only 60% of these gifts are for mothers! Many gifts are spent on wives, and even on girlfriends! I know many men who feel pressure to find a gift, not only for their mothers, but also their wives. To neglect their wives on this day would be a fatal mistake indeed! Gifts now include everything from flowers, cards and chocolates, to items for home décor, rings and necklaces. As I observed the day as a pastor of a local church, I felt increasing pressure to make the day into a kind of Women’s Day. The sentiment was that women who had no children were being neglected on this day, and to bring up motherhood every year was only marginalizing childless women. One woman told me that Mother’s Day was the most hurtful time of the year!
So, without wanting to alienate anyone, and while acknowledging there is no biblical mandate to celebrate such a day, I wish to argue for a simple celebration in honour of our mothers.
If you think of it, no one is neglected or marginalized on this day, for all of us have mothers! And, biblically, men and women, boys and girls, are all called to honour their mothers. My mother is in glory, but I am overwhelmingly grateful that my first lessons in prayer came from her, as she knelt with me next to my bed and taught me to pray. I remember her concern for my clothes, my eating habits, my problems in school, and her way of making me know that I was loved. Proverbs 31:28 tells us that “her children rise up and call her blessed.” And that is all we should do on Mother’s Day. Rise up and call your mother “blessed”!
And so, in a culture that has eroded the idea of a day set aside for no other reason but to honour our mothers and celebrate the high calling of motherhood, I say, “Let’s recapture its original intention.” If your mother is alive, pick up the phone and say, “Thank you.” Perhaps even write a note in praise of her, telling her what she did that blessed your life. Let her know you remember her. And if your mother has gone home to glory, get on your knees and thank your God for the woman who served her Lord by being your mother.
To all of our mothers, “Thank you.”