Mother's Day is increasingly about gifts and flowers.
As important as these tokens are, true appreciation comes through daily commitments to support and assist the vital work of motherhood.
Amidst the rush to buy up the best flowers or to compose the most effusive Facebook post, it's worth pausing to recall the holiday's true meaning.
On the third anniversary of her mother’s death, Anna Jarvis organized a memorial to her mother, as well as all mothers, at the Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia, on May 10, 1908. A similar gathering took place in the Wanamaker Store Auditorium in Philadelphia where 15,000 people honored mothers.
The next year, 43 more states started celebrations and in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation designating the second Sunday of May a national holiday known as Mother’s Day.
“Mother’s Day” is specifically singular and possessive, as the holiday was designed so each family would honor its own mother. It’s held on Sunday because Jarvis evidently intended it to be not just another holiday but a “holy” day. A white carnation, the flower that Jarvis had distributed to attendees at Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church that first Mother’s Day, was chosen because “the carnation does not drop its petals, but hugs them to its heart as it dies, and so, too, mothers hug their children to their hearts, their mother love never dying.”
Jarvis said that the popularity of the holiday was because “thousands and thousands of persons” recognized the unique love of mothers. But she couldn’t have predicted how monstrously large that popularity would grow.
Excluding only Christmas, Mother’s Day is the most popular gift-giving holiday in the United States. According to a study done by the National Retail Federation, spending is expected to reach $23.6 billion this year, a record high. But Jarvis intended the day to be one of sentiment, not consumerism.
In Jarvis’ day, mothers generally worked in the home, and she wanted to recognize and appreciate those labors that mothers gave.
Today, many mothers work outside the home but, as ample data suggests, their domestic roles have hardly diminished.
In other words, increasingly mothers are pulling double duty. Mothers need and deserve more appreciation, but they also need support from husbands and children, friends and employers, churches and communities — not just on Mother's Day, but all year round.
After all, where mothers succeed, so too does society.
It is a day to show appreciation for the devotion, love, time, effort and dedication mothers amply demonstrate. Actions, of course, express appreciation better than words — although, on this holiday, why not recommit to give more of both all year.