On May 10, 1908, a woman named Anna Jarvis held a memorial service for her mother at St. Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia. It was the first celebration of a new holiday called “Mother’s Day.”
Jarvis’ campaign to make Mother’s Day a national holiday began three years earlier, in 1905, at the death of her mother, Anna Reeves Jarvis. Due in no small part to Jarvis’ efforts, by 1911, every state in the Union was celebrating Mother’s Day. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson declared it a national holiday.
By the 1920’s, however, Hallmark began mass-producing Mother’s Day cards. Floral companies began selling red carnations by the thousands. Jarvis quickly became disillusioned with the commercialization of her beloved holiday and how the original emphasis of the day was being lost.
Soon she found herself protesting candy factories and the selling of carnations. In 1943 she began a petition to rescind Mother’s Day.
Anna Jarvis, the founder of Mother’s Day, grew to despise the holiday.
Don’t get me wrong. Mother’s Day can be a very good thing. As it always takes place on a Sunday, it allows us a wonderful opportunity to go to church and thank God for the gift of our mothers. It is a fitting occasion to thank our moms and let them know how much we love them.
Mother’s Day presents us with a unique opportunity to talk about the important role mothers play in the faith life of their children. The greatest lesson my mother ever taught me was what it means to love God and be loved by him.
Today, however, Mother’s Day is all about buying your mom a card and taking her out to eat. Mother’s Day has become a multi-million dollar industry. Emotion-driven commercials manipulate us into thinking the sign of a good son or daughter is that you spend money on your mom one day a year so that she knows you love her.
In fact, many people don’t even go to church any more on Mother’s Day because they need to take mom out to eat and they want to get there early before the crowds.
For many in our world today, Mother’s Day is one of the unhappiest days of the year. For mothers who have lost children, for children who have lost mothers, for women who do not have or are unable to have children, the holiday is a painful reminder of what they have lost or can never have.
I hope I don’t sound like the Ebenezer Scrooge of Mother’s Day. I believe Mother’s Day is a wonderful holiday which should be celebrated. Unlike Anna Jarvis, I don’t think it should be rescinded.
But this year, as you celebrate Mother’s Day, watch out for the emotional manipulation of commercialism. Mother’s Day isn’t about cards and flowers and going out to eat. The greatest gift you can actually give your mom is to worship with her in church on Sunday morning.
This Sunday, make sure to thank your mom and let her know you love her, but don’t just do it one day a year. And don’t just tell her. Show her you love her by honoring her, forgiving her and supporting her throughout the year.
And please be sensitive to those who are hurting this Mother’s Day. Be aware of the women around you who haven’t been given the joy of motherhood. Be understanding of those who feel the pain of loss more keenly on Mother’s Day.
Mother’s Day can be a very good thing. Just keep it in perspective.