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Friday, May 11, 2007

Mother Made Me Do It

Posted by The Paper Lion | E-Mail The Author

I am a mother, as my mother was, and her mother before that. In fact, motherhood seems to run in our family, going back to what historians believe was the time when motherhood was first celebrated.

Contrary to popular belief, Mother's Day was not conceived at a combined convention of card, chocolate, and flower companies. Mothers were first honoured at the ancient spring festivals dedicated to mother goddesses. In ancient Greece they honoured Rhea, wife of Cronus and mother of the gods and goddesses. In Rome, ceremonies in honour of Cybele, the Great Mother of Gods, began 250 years BC. The celebration, called Hilaria, lasted from March 15-18.

In England, "Mothering Sunday", also called Mid-Lent Sunday, is celebrated on the 4th Sunday in Lent. It is said that the ceremony in honour of Cybele was adapted by the early Church to venerate Mary, Mother of Christ. It inevitably became a time to honour ALL mothers.

During the 1600's in England, young men and women who were working as apprentices or servants were given the day off and allowed to return home on Mothering Sunday. They brought small gifts or a special "mothering cake." So began the traditions of gift-giving.

The modern traditions of Mother's Day began in America in 1868 when Julia Ward Howe, author of the lyrics to the Battle Hymn of the Republic, suggested a day be set aside to celebrate motherhood. She organized such a celebration in her home city of Boston, but the idea did not catch on elsewhere.

It was not until Anna M. Jarvis (1864-1948) came along that Mother's Day became a national holiday. It all started when Anna's mother died in 1907. Anna and her friends started a letter writing campaign to have a national Mother's Day holiday declared. A church service in her mother's honour was held on May 10, 1908. As carnations were her mother's favorite flowers, they decorated the church. In time, red carnations came to be the symbol of a living mother and white symbolized that one's mother was dead.

The first Mother's Day proclamation was issued by the governor of West Virginia in 1910. Oklahoma declared Mother's Day that year also. By 1911 every state observed it, and also Mexico, Canada, China, Japan, South America and Africa. The Mother's Day International Association was incorporated on Dec. 12, 1912. In May of 1913, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously adopted a resolution requesting the President and his Cabinet, members of Congress, and all officials of the federal government wear a white carnation on Mother's Day. On May 8, 1914, Congress officially designated Mother's Day an official holiday in the U.S.

Ironically, Anna M. Jarvis, enraged by the commercialism of Mother's Day, filed a lawsuit in 1923 to stop Mother's Day. She was arrested for disturbing the peace when she disrupted a war mother's convention where women were selling carnations. She died in 1948, at 84, never a mother herself and her fortune gone in efforts to stop the holiday she had started. She told a reporter shortly before her death that she was sorry she ever started Mother's Day.

It is also ironic that the original Anna Jarvis, Anna M. Jarvis's mother, organized a mother's day, of sorts, in 1858. It was called "Mother's Work Days" and was a time for Appalachian women to "improve the sanitation and prevent deaths from disease-bearing insects and seepage of polluted water." Sounds like MORE WORK for mothers, to me! I'll take being waited on hand-and-foot, every time.

A trivia tribute to Mother's Day wouldn't be complete without a few "infamous" MOMS. There was, of course, Jocasta, Oedipus's mom, and the start of all that complex stuff. And don't forget Cinderella's stepmother. Stepmothers have had a bad reputation ever since. Hollywood is rife with infamous moms. Joan Crawford was vilified as a mother in her daughter Christina's biography, Mommie Dearest (1978). And then there's Ma Barker.

Ma Barker (1872-1935) was said to be the notorious head of a criminal gang that consisted of her sons Herman, Arthur, and Fred - known as the Bloody Barkers - and their allies. In the 1920s and 1930s they terrorized the midwestern U.S. with kidnappings and robberies. Herman shot himself in 1927 rather than give himself up to the police. Arthur was shot in 1939 while trying to escape from Alcatraz. And Ma and her son, Fred, died together in 1935 in a gunfight with the FBI. And where was Mr. Barker while this was going on? George Barker refused to be a part of the gang. Ma Barker left him in 1927.

So to all you ordinary moms - neither famous nor infamous - enjoy the day that was invented just for you. And to all you sons and daughters, go out and buy a carnation. In fact, give your mom the largest bouquet you can find. She deserves it!


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