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  As we revel in the season of honouring mothers, interestingly, the timing and customs vary across different regions. Every year, there is clamouring, especially on social media at the number of days set aside to celebrate our mothers/women. Here’s the thing, there’s one observed on the second Sunday of March and another observed on the second Sunday of May. Mother’s Day observed on the second Sunday of March (European tradition of Mother’s Day) and the one celebrated on the second Sunday of May presents distinct characteristics influenced by historical, cultural, and regional factors.
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Timing Tells a Tale

The most evident contrast lies in the timing of the celebrations. Mother’s Day in March, acknowledged in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Nigeria, aligns with the historical roots of ‘Mothering Sunday’. This date is linked to the Christian calendar, specifically marking the fourth Sunday in Lent. In contrast, Mother’s Day in May, chosen by the majority of countries, including the United States, Canada, and Australia, has no direct connection to religious calendars. Instead, it stems from a more modern, international initiative unrelated to any specific historical or religious event. In fact, it is regarded as International Mother’s Day.

Origins Unveiled

Mothering Sunday, the precursor to Mother’s Day, in March, carries a historical legacy dating back to the 16th century. Initially rooted in the Christian tradition of returning to the ‘mother church,’ it evolved into a secular celebration, emphasizing maternal figures in a broader context.
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Conversely, Mother’s Day in May has a relatively recent origin. The United States officially designated the second Sunday in May as a day to honour mothers in the early 20th century, spurred by the efforts of activist Anna Jarvis. Following her mother’s passing, Jarvis spearheaded the movement to institute a holiday, fulfilling the desire her mother had often articulated. A proclamation by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914 paved the way for the global spread of the May celebration.

Global vs. Local Celebrations

Mother’s Day in March is more regionally bound, with the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Nigeria being the primary adherents of this tradition. It carries cultural nuances tied to historical practices, such as familial reunions and gestures of appreciation from children working away from home. On the other hand, Mother’s Day in May has achieved global recognition, becoming a widely adopted celebration. Its international prevalence has led to commercialization, featuring common practices like gift-giving, flower exchanges, and expressions of love, making it a more universal observance.

Honouring Maternal Figures:

Regardless of the date or cultural practices, the essence of both Mother’s Day celebrations remains consistent – a heartfelt acknowledgement of the pivotal role mothers play in our lives. Whether it’s the traditional Mothering Sunday or the more contemporary, globally embraced May celebration, the objective is to express gratitude and honour maternal figures.
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As Mother’s Day approaches, understanding the nuances of these two distinct celebrations allows us to appreciate the diverse ways in which societies express love and gratitude towards the guiding stars of our lives – our mothers.
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This article was first published on 10th March 2024


I am a poet. I am a moderate thinker who abhors radicalism on every front and believes that most things are relative. I am a social and political critic. I love writing, reading and international politics.

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