ORIGINALLY POSTED MARCH 19, 2007
And reposted ahead of Mother's Day 2008 in the U.S.
Sunday, March 18th was Mothering Sunday in the UK, roughly two months before its equivalent in the US: Mother's Day, where it falls on the second Sunday in May. On this occasion, the BBC reports that the woman who invented the celebration spent 40 years of her life fighting the commercialism that sprang up around the day.
Anna Jarvis campaigned for over a decade before President Woodrow Wilson, in 1914, dedicated a day to mothers.
Within a few years, the occasion became commercialized, to Anna's horror.
"Along with her sister Ellsinore, Anna spent the entire family inheritance on trying to undo the damage done to Mother's Day. One of her protests even got her arrested for disturbing the peace. She died in 1948, in poverty and without success.
"In one respect what Ms Jarvis wanted from the day lives on - it has taken on huge significance and is a celebration of motherhood. However, how most people chose to celebrate it would make her turn in her grave."
"Consumers are pressured by advertising and businesses to measure goodwill in terms of presents, says branding expert Jonathan Gabay.
"Mother's Day has become a yearly windfall to business. It's an opportunity to market everything from cut flowers and greetings cards to nostalgic CDs, perfume and beauty products."
The commercialism that accompanies so many holidays in the U.S. truly sickens me. Christmas as it is celebrated today was created by Coca-Cola, Montgomery Ward, Hallmark and other corporations, who saw immense opportunities which I'm sure have far exceeded their early expectations. People have completely caved to advertising and corporate propaganda. How many times have you heard of people going into serious credit card debt over Christmas presents? Did Jesus ever say "be sure to go into debt in My Name"? And yet, here we are. Valentine's and Halloween? Wouldn't be surprised at all to hear Hershey's and other candy companies had a big hand in turning these days into what are now the two biggest sugar high days of the year.
Fortunately, Thanksgiving seems to have escaped most of that commercial frenzy. It's one thing for which I DO give thanks every November.
But back to Mother's Day. I hardly claim to speak for all mothers, but for me a Hallmark card and a dozen roses don't do a thing. Going out to brunch on usually involves a crowded restaurant and waiting, which isn't my cup of tea. As much as chocolate is a lovely gift, it gives me nowhere the pleasure of my children's handmade cards and notes, awkward as they may be. THAT'S a present! I had told the kids to stop buying me stuff, so the handmade cards started coming, along with "Mom's Day Off," and the occasional surprise. One year, my son handed me a little basket of morel mushrooms he'd picked in the woods. He'd heard me say I missed the taste of morels. Three years ago, my daughter gave me a jar with little strips of paper in it, on which she wrote things that she loved about me. She told me to remember to open the jar and read the strips whenever I had a bad day. Really made me tear up.
Hallmark and FTD can't top these.
What do I really want for Mother's Day?
Pretty much what I have with my children every day. Good conversation, honesty, humor and respect. I want what any Mom wants: happy, fulfilled children. I want to look at them and see gentle souls, loving hearts, humor, generosity and good judgement; to know they've been equipped properly to be independent and responsible adults. The best thing my kids could give to me on Mother's Day is to let me know how I'm doing in my efforts to bring them up to be all these things.
Anna Jarvis was right to be horrified at the commercialization of the holiday she championed. Showering Mom with gifts and some pampering one day a year is no compensation for taking her for granted the rest of the year.
More mothers are taking up Anna Jarvis' fight against the commercialization of Mother's Day. The BBC piece quotes Carrie Longton, a founder of Mumsnet (in the UK):
"There is a real movement among mothers at the moment to think about mothers who are less fortunate. We are encouraging people to make a donation to charities that help mothers worldwide rather than buy flowers.
"I will be working on a cake stall on Mother's Day to raise money for HIV mothers in Africa. It costs just £7 to buy the medicine to make sure they don't pass HIV onto their children."
It's this type of action that Ms Jarvis would approve of. Especially as she hated Mother's Day cards, calling them "a poor excuse for the letter you are too lazy to write".
Read the whole BBC article here.
UPDATE 2: NPR had a piece on the marketing of Mother's Day, then and now. It aired on Friday, May 11. Listen to the Morning Edition piece here.
Friday, May 11, 2007