Sunday, June 17, 2012

Naughts and Zeds: Mother's and Father's Days

Naughts and Zeds is an ongoing series of posts on the differences between language, culture, and everyday items in America and in Britain. For a list of previous posts, go here.

Now that Father's Day is here in the United States and the United Kingdom, I'd like to note the different celebrations of Mother's Day in both countries.

In the UK, Mother's Day is known as Mothering Sunday. It's celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent, so this year (2012) it was celebrated on March 18. The tradition dates back to 16th century England, when young apprentices would return to their mother church (i.e. the parish where they were born) and, presumably, get to visit their own moms back home. The celebration petered out but was revived during World War II when American soldiers in England celebrated Mother's Day. The two holidays, the Anglican Mothering Sunday and the American Mother's Day, merged. The Anglican date remained. We were on our US trip when Mothering Sunday happened this year, so we wound up celebrating the US Mother's Day later on, when we were back in England.

In the US, Mother's Day is the second Sunday in May (the 13th this year). Anna Jarvis started the American tradition in 1908. It really caught fire in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson made it a national holiday. Subsequently the holiday was taken over by greeting card companies, chocolate merchants, and florists. Jarvis regretted how commercial the holiday had become, but many in the US still keep the proper spirit towards the holiday, honoring the woman who brought them into the world. Lucy and Jacob made their own cards and some presents this year; I supplemented with chocolates and a few other modest gifts.

Around the rest of the world, various days are celebrated as Mother's Day, at least according to Wikipedia.

Father's Day is definitely a sequel to Mother's Day, as its celebration was inspired by Mother's Day. For some, the inspiration was to acknowledge the contributions of their fathers. For others, it was another holiday to sell greeting cards and man-centric items. Maybe that's why it took until Lyndon B. Johnson to get presidential recognition in 1966, though it was not a permanent national holiday until Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972. The third Sunday in June is the official day in both the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as many other countries (though there is a similar dispersal of celebratory days around the world, at least according to Wikipedia).

I'd like to thank my mother (still alive and quite active) and my father (who has passed away) for all they have given to me: life, the liberty to pursue my own dreams, and a happy home that I can always come back to. One day is not enough to acknowledge how much they both have done for me and my siblings. I love you both.

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