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Celebrating Mothers Around the Globe

09:00 May 07, 2021
By: Michelle Nicholson

…And Bringing Those Traditions Back Home

Not a single one of us entered this world without a mother, and few of us have survived and thrived without the love, guidance, and support of women who are—or who are like—our mothers. Mother's Day in the United States began in 1908, but recorded communal celebrations of motherhood date back to the Ancient Greeks. Nowadays, people all around the world set aside time each year to devote to showing gratitude for the sacrifices and contributions our mothers make.


At Anna Jarvis's first Mother's Day celebration, mothers were given a single white carnation to wear, like a corsage. Thus, the white carnation was established as the official flower of Mother's Day in the United States—a practice that has been picked up by Japan. Red or pink carnations are displayed at home or at cemeteries to honor mothers who have passed. In Thailand, jasmine is the official flower of Mother's Day. Flowers are a nearly universal element of Mother's Day celebrations around the globe.

Carnations are one of the most affordable flowers and are often sold at grocery stores, making them a widely accessible and convenient gift. While white, pink, and red are traditional colors, you can get whatever colors your mother likes best. For mothers with gardens, you might consider getting her a live gift at a local nursery, such as Harold's Plants on Press Street. Any flowering plant will be a happy reminder to Mama of your appreciation of how much she has done to help you grow and bloom.

If you decide to purchase an arrangement, remember that Mother's Day is the busiest day for florists in the United States. Order well ahead of time! You might try making a floral arrangement of your own. Purchase two or three types of flowers and a filler, such as baby's breath or eucalyptus, from a local florist or grocer—or harvest them from your own garden, leaves and all. Mix them up with some whimsy and wrap them in a cone of decorative tissue paper or place them in a vase.

Feasting with Family

Spending time together to break (metaphorical) bread is another way to pamper and give back to our mothers. In France, the giving of flowers and treats combine into a local tradition of eating a flower-shaped cake on Mother's Day. In Italy, the traditional cake takes the shape of a heart. In the UK, the preferred cake is a simnel, a special kind of fruitcake featuring two layers of marzipan—one on top and one in the middle.

While these cakes may be complicated to make or expensive to order from a bakery, it is easy to whip up or purchase ready-made cupcakes to decorate. Simply fill a plastic sandwich bag with colored icing, snip off the corner, and pipe the floral design of your choice on top of each. Or arrange a collection of cupcakes in two colors (one for the middle and one for the petals), in the shape of a flower, on a table or tray.

In some countries, including India, entire meals or all-day feasts are part of Mother's Day celebrations. In Ethiopia, three days of feasting and celebrating are devoted to mothers each year. Ethiopians may not cook for their mothers during this holiday, but children return home with the daughters bringing veggies and cheese and the sons bringing meat. Their family's matriarch then makes a delicious hash with these ingredients for the whole family to share. This dish is not only a representation of how each member contributes to the family; it is a demonstration of how it is their mother—her hands and hard work—that unites the family.

Spending an entire day, much less three days, in celebration may not fit into our lifestyles, but hosting a meal or bringing a potluck to Mom's house is an inexpensive and intimate alternative to brunch at a local restaurant. However, if dining out is the most reasonable, and convenient, way to honor Mom this year, be sure to make your reservations in advance. More people eat in restaurants in the United States on Mother's Day than any other day of the year!

Words of Love and Gratitude

Directly expressing love and gratitude to mothers is the main theme of Mother's Day celebrations and there is no better way in doing that than to express it directly in words. In Mexico, mothers are treated to a traditional serenade—sometime even to the accompaniment of mariachis—as well as breakfast in bed, while Argentinians gift their mothers with poems. Similarly, in France and the United States, cards have become another hallmark Mother's Day gift and are a great option for busy grown-up children.

This year, you might consider making personalized cards for your mothers. The materials you use are less important than the content of the message. Take a stab at writing your own poem or do a search online for one that resonates with your thoughts and feelings about your mother the most.

If poetry isn't your or your mama's jam, then write her a simple note sharing some of your most important memories of her. You might even collaborate with your siblings, if you have any, by putting together a little chapbook or photo album of stories and meaningful moments.

Short on time? Even a phone call can mean a whole lot to Mom. In fact, Mother's Day is the busiest day of the year for phone calls all over the world!

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