I must confess that I am not overly enamored by some of the holidays celebrated in the US mainly because of the extent of commercialization that occurs. My biggest gripe is about Christmas which has lost all of its real meaning because of rampant commercialization – and I commented on this in in a prior posting on this blog. The one exception is Mother’s Day which – although also commercialized heavily – is an occasion that I quite enjoy celebrating because it celebrates mothers. Of course, both in India and in Kenya, there was no such thing as Mother’s Day, though I understand that this is changing in the major cities in India and much of the developing world where Western influence is being felt. I wish there were something similar in Kenya when my mother was alive.

I love the idea of dedicating a day to celebrate and honor one’s mother. Usually our routine does not change much. I make coffee for Mini …… but then that is nothing unusual since I do that every day given that I am an early riser. But we do take her out to a special lunch and we try and make sure that she does not have to do any cooking despite her protestations! Where we take her for lunch is a surprise and she does not really know until we get to the restaurant. Until last year we did this together with Saira and family but now that she has twins who are just over a year old as well as another offspring who is not quite four years, the idea of going to a restaurant with all the kids is a bit overwhelming!

This year’s celebration of Mother’s Day was a change from the usual. We got back yesterday evening from a weekend in Atlantic City where we celebrated Mother’s Day with Mini. My role was limited because it was something that her children took the initiative in organizing and funding the occasion. My role was limited to suggesting it as a possible venue because I knew that it was something Mini would really enjoy since she loves playing the slots. We stayed at a very nice resort called “The Seaview” which is especially known for its golf courses. Various celebrities have stayed at the Seaview. Nods to the Seaview’s history can be seen in the plethora of framed photographs lining the walls. There’s a photo of Grace Kelly, whose Sweet 16 was held in the Oval Room (her father was a member at Seaview in 1946 during the days when it was a private club).

Seaview Resort

There are photo displays recognizing Presidents Harding, Truman, Eisenhower and Nixon, all of whom played golf at the Seaview. Other famous guests included, in 1940, Jimmy Demaret, Ben Hogan, Bing Crosby and Gene Sarazen, who all graced the greens at Seaview during a tournament.

Those whose passion is music, not golf or royalty, will be interested to know that The Rolling Stones were registered guests at the Seaview for 10 days in 1989, during their Steel Wheels tour. At the time, lead singer Mick Jagger was said to have met music legend Eric Clapton for lunch in the Grille Room. And music legend Bob Dylan also stayed there around the same time, registered under his pseudonym “Justin Case”.

Mini at Trump Tajmahal

Mini did not have a clue what was in store for her on Mother’s Day. It was a surprise until a couple of days prior to departing for Atlantic City. To make matters better she actually won some money! She thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent there; we (Amit and I) did so as well though neither of us were into gambling but it was fun to see the thrill Mini got from playing the slots! We also had a great dinner at “Angelo’s Fairmount Tavern” which is famous for its Italian cuisine – huge portions of authentic food. We ordered two entrees between the three of us and yet there were left-overs. We also had dinner at a Malaysian restaurant called the “New Melaka Restaurant” – it is a family run “hole in the wall” place but the food was out of this world! I’d recommend both these places to anyone who visits Atlantic City!

I decided to learn a little more about the origins of Mother’s Day …. something that I would not have thought of doing had it not been for how we spent the weekend and the fact that I maintain a blog!

It turns out that one of the earliest historical records of celebrating a “mother deity” was among the ancient Egyptians, who held an annual festival to honor the goddess Isis who was regarded as the mother of the pharaohs. Interestingly, the Romans also celebrated Isis though the Roman origin of honoring mothers is more linked to the celebration of the Phrygian goddess Cybele, or Magna Mater (Great Mother).

The Greeks celebrated Rhea who was believed to be the mother of all Greek gods!

Around 1600, a clerical decree in England broadened the original celebration of “Mother Church” which, in turn was related to Lent. The decree included real mothers, referring to the day as “Mothering Day”. Mothering Day provided a one-day reprieve from the fasting and penance of Lent so that families across England could enjoy a family feast— the mother was the guest of honor. Mothers were presented with cakes and flowers, as well as a visit from their beloved and distant children – the first semblance of how Mother’s Day is celebrated today.

The first North American Mother’s Day was conceptualized by a Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870 by Julia Ward Howe who penned “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” 12 years earlier. Interestingly, Howe’s proclamation was more in the nature of a protest against war and called on mothers to join in protesting the carnage and cost in human life as a result of wars. Howe was deeply affected by the deaths that resulted in the Civil War She wanted mothers to join in protesting what she saw as the futility of their sons killing the sons of other mothers and called for an international Mother’s Day celebrating peace and motherhood. This protest movement did not last long.

However, Howe did plant the seed for what later became Mother’s Day. A West Virginian, Anna Reeves Jarvis adapted Howe’s idea to re-unite families and neighbors that had been divided because of the Civil War and held a “Mother’s Friendship Day”. After Anna Reeves Jarvis died, her daughter Anna M. Jarvis campaigned for the creation of an official Mother’s Day in remembrance of her mother and in honor of peace. In 1908, her request was honored, and the first official Mother’s Day celebration took place at Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia and a church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The West Virginia event drew a congregation of 407 and Anna Jarvis arranged for white carnations—her Mother’s favorite flower—to adorn the patrons. Two carnations were given to every Mother in attendance. Today, white carnations are used to honor deceased Mothers, while pink or red carnations pay tribute to Mothers who are still alive. Andrew’s Methodist Church exists to this day, and was incorporated into the International Mother’s Day Shrine in 1962.

Subsequently, Anna Jarvis worked full time to the creation of a national Mother’s Day, by endlessly petitioning congress, state governments, business leaders, women groups, churches and other institutions and organizations. In 1912 West Virginia became the first state to officially recognize Mother’s Day, and in 1914 Woodrow Wilson declared the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

Today, some form of Mothers Day is celebrated in many countries around the world. In many countries, the U.S. version of Mother’s Day is celebrated with little cultural adaptation. Others, including countries whose tradition stems from the English Mothering Day, maintain traditions quite different from those of the United States. Still others have ignored or abandoned the more religious and commercial notions of Mother’s Day, choosing instead to focus on women’s issues and women’s rights by celebrating International Women’s Day.

While the United States’ version of Mother’s Day is perhaps the version most widely celebrated in many countries because of its secular humanist roots despite the extensive commercialization. However, many countries regardless of this trend, continue to attach much more symbolic and/or religious importance to their Mother’s Day celebrations. In Spain for example, Mother’s Day takes place during the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th. In Ethiopia the holiday is tied to seasons and agriculture, and in Yugoslavia it leads up to Christmas, commemorating the Motherhood of Christ.

But in the US, commercialization of Mother’s Day is rampant as shown in the table below which shows the expenditure on various categories that Mother’s Day is celebrated.

But like I said at the start, I feel it is one occasion when despite the commercialization, the concept, thinking and intent is admirable and even noble.

I wish there had been an occasion and custom such as this in Kenya in the fifties and sixties to have honored and celebrated my mother when she was alive!

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2 Responses to “Mother’s Day ….. past and present”

  1. Saira says:

    I especially like this post — since I like Mother’s Day too. And what’s interesting to me is the vast difference between the emphasis around Mother’s Day vs. Father’s Day.

  2. Alevtina says:

    I have been surfing online more than three hours nowadays, but I never found any attention-grabbing article like yours.

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