Hurry! Mothers’ Day is tomorrow!

Here in Ireland (and the UK), Mothers’ Day is tomorrow. Flowers and candy are on sale everywhere, as you’d expect.

The Irish-English story of Mothers’ Day is a nice example of the entanglement of the Anglophone countries. Mothers Day is technically named Mothering Sunday, and it falls on the fourth Sunday of Lent. (So this year, it’s abnormally early. I’m sure that many Irish sons were caught unawares!)

The tradition originates in Laetare Sunday on the Catholic liturgical calendar. The story is that, centuries ago, servants and apprentices were allowed to return to their mother-church and their family on Laetare Sunday. motherssign.png So, that Sunday became associated with children returning to their extended families and thus, their mothers.

Mothering Sunday was nearly forgotten by the 1930s, but American servicemen stationed in England during the Second World War helped revive the tradition, and the focus of the day was firmly fixed on mothers alone. Mothering Sunday is prominent once again. From the appearance of the stores on Grafton Street, the tradition is now indistinguishable from Mother’s Day in the US — it’s a standard hallmark-holiday.

By the way, the story of Mother’s Day in the United States is much more exciting. It’s a historiographic grudge-match! In one corner, flourishing in 1872, is the feminist and anti-war suffragette, Julia Ward Howe. In the other corner, flourishing in 1908, is the Victorian sentimentalist, Anna Jarvis. In the grand tradition of pugilistic commentary, I offer my analysis in verse:

Howe’s left-side rhetorical hook
is second to none,
but the appeal of Jarvis to mainstream authority
will get the job done.

Good stuff, especially for doctoral candidates. This donnybrook should continue for decades to come.

1 Comment to “Hurry! Mothers’ Day is tomorrow!”

  1. Dave said...
    3 March 2008

    Will, thanks for the history lesson. I now know what I must do with my life. If I really want Superbowl Monday to be a national holiday, I must follow Anna Jarvis’ method, quit work, and devote myself full time to the creation of Superbowl Monday. I must endlessly petition state governments, business leaders, mens groups, beer companies and other institutions and organizations. Thank you for helping me find my calling.