Mother's Day Celebrations Around the World

Thursday 23rd March 2017 by Charlotte Maxwell

Mother's day

With Mother’s day around the corner we’ve taken a closer look at how we and some other countries celebrate.

In the UK, Mother’s day also called Mothering Sunday is always celebrated on the 4th Sunday of Lent. The tradition goes way back to 16th century when poor children were given a day off work to go home and honour the Virgin Mary at their “mother church”. Children would pick flowers and back cakes called Simnel Cakes. These days, most families celebrate by giving gifts, flowers and spending time with their mums.


Fête des mères was first honoured by Napoleon who wanted mothers of large families to be rewarded, and then during the first world war mothers of 4 or 5 children were given medals!  But it was made official in 1950 and now French children will do chores for their mums and give gifts, flowers, and handwritten poems.


Mothers day or Muttertag takes place similarly to France. During the 2nd world war, Mother’s day became more political and was a day to celebrate women producing children for the Fatherland (Vaterland). And medals were given to mothers based on how many children she had borne. These days, the day is celebrated with gifts, cards and flowers. And sometimes festive meals.


America popularised Mothering Sunday by calling it Mother’s day. The day was first celebrated at the start of the last century when Ann Reeves Jarvis’s mother died. She wanted to create a national day for families to honour the sacrifices mothers make for their children.


For Panamanians, Mother’s day is as important a celebration as Christmas or New Years. In the 1500’s Panama was settled by Spanish Catholic Immigrants and Catholicism remains very strong throughout the country. So, Mother’s Day is also remembered for the date of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception when Catholics worldwide celebrate the solemn belief in the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.


Dia das Mães like Panama is incredibly popular. Children perform at Church gatherings and wonderful multi-generational barbecues take place.


Carnations are the symbolic flower used to celebrate in Japan. They are supposed to represent the gentle strength of mothers. The role of the mother is really revered in Japan and mothers are pampered on this day while children do chores, make sushi, and give their mothers gifts and flowers.


So culturally diverse and such a large country, India celebrates Mother’s day in different ways. There is the more westernised version when the day is spent reflecting on the importance of their Mothers, and then the Hindus celebration relates to their goddess Durga (divine mother) which takes place during a 10 day festival called Durga Puja. Good overcoming evil is rejoiced and gifts are given to friends and family during large feasts and celebrations.  


Mother’s day is celebrated at the end of the rain season and combines part of a 3 day festival dedicated to Mums! The skies clear and the rain stops, family members come home to feast all together.  Different family members bring different contributions: Daughters bring vegetables, spices and dairy products, and sons bring meat including Bull. Traditional dishes will be made and singing and dancing is enjoyed by all.


I’ve learnt loads in the research for this blog, and was sad for the little children who had to work so hard in the UK back in the day. I’m glad that for most people now, celebrating Mothering Sunday is usually in happier circumstances.  Other than this, I think the Ethiopian celebration is the most exciting! Let us know what you think or if you know of any other traditions we can add to the blog.