Millions of American families honor their mothers every year with cards, flowers, special meals and other gifts on the second Sunday in May thanks to the work of Anna Jarvis, the founder of this country’s Mother’s Day. A single woman without children, Jarvis relentlessly lobbied for the holiday in honor of her own mother’s death, which took place on the second Sunday of May 1905. By 1914, the celebration had become so popular that it was declared a national holiday (Jarvis later regretted lobbying for the official holiday after it became commercialized.)

Today almost every country in the world observes a version of Mother’s Day to thank mothers for the critical role they play in the family.

“Despite the many cultural differences that exist and differing expectations of motherhood throughout history and the world, one thing remains constant: a recognition that mothers have a uniquely important, valuable role in helping children to thrive,” says Christine Gross-Loh, author of Parenting Without Borders: Surprising Lessons Parents Around the World Can Teach Us.

While many countries celebrate on the same day as the United States and with similar traditions, others observe different dates and follow their own unique customs. Here’s a look at how seven other countries celebrate Mother’s Day around the world.

1. United Kingdom

Mother’s Day in the United Kingdom takes place on the fourth Sunday of Lent, a date that varies each year. The celebration originated in the Middle Ages as a religious holiday known as Mothering Sunday, when people in domestic service were allowed to return to their home, or mother, church and often visited family.

simnel cake, mother's day
Andrew1Norton/Getty Images
A traditional British simnel cake.

Influenced by the modern American celebration, Mothering Sunday became largely secular by the 1950s, though it retained the traditional date in Lent. Today the holiday is known in the United Kingdom both as Mother’s Day and Mothering Sunday and is celebrated much as it is in the United States. One traditional Mothering Sunday food is the Simnel cake, a light fruitcake made with marzipan, which is also popular at Easter.

2. Mexico

Mexico has celebrated Mother’s Day since 1922, when it was established as part of an effort to promote motherhood as the roles of women expanded outside the home. Rafael Alducin, founder of the Mexico City newspaper El Excelsior, organized the first celebration on May 10, 1922.

Today, in addition to giving mothers flowers, cards, and other gifts, families enjoy traditional Mexican foods and music. The celebration also frequently includes serenading mothers in the morning, some families even hire mariachis to accompany them, and continues with special masses and school performances.

3. Japan

Mother’s Day in Japan was originally held on March 6, 1931, to celebrate the birthday of Empress Kojun, the mother of Emperor Emeritus Akihito, but it was banned as a Western influence during World War II. In 1949, Japan began celebrating Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May. Today it is marked by families giving their mothers gifts, cards, and flowers, usually red carnations, which symbolize a mother’s love and sacrifices, and enjoying traditional Japanese egg dishes.

4. Ethiopia

Mother’s Day in Ethiopia takes place during Antrosht, a three-day celebration held whenever the rainy season ends, sometime between October and November. Families come together with traditional singing, dancing, and a feast that includes a hash made by the mother. The ingredients for the hash are brought by the children with boys bringing lamb or bull meat and the girls bringing vegetables, spices, and dairy.

5. Peru

While Peru marks Mother’s Day on the same date as the United States and with many of the same customs, including giving flowers and sharing meals, many Peruvians also honor their deceased female relatives. They gather at their graves to celebrate them, often bringing flowers and sharing food and drinks. The tradition is so popular that vendors sell flowers, balloons, and signs outside the cemeteries.

6. Thailand

Queen Sirikit
A large portrait of Queen Sirikit stands in front of one of Bangkok's newest and most modern plazas on August 8, several days before her birthday which is considered Mothers' Day in Thailand.

When Thailand first celebrated Mother’s Day in 1950, it took place on April 15, close to Songkran, the Thai new year, but it was moved to August 12 in 1976 to honor the birthday of Queen Sirikit, who is considered the mother of the nation. Children give their mothers garlands of jasmine, which symbolizes purity and love, while families often give alms to Buddhist monks and make charitable donations. Schools host performances for mothers, while candle-lighting ceremonies, parades, and fireworks honor the Queen.

7. France

The French honor their mothers nationally on the last Sunday in May, unless it falls on the same day as the Christian holiday of Pentecost, in which case it moves to the first Sunday in June. Although the day originated as a way to honor mothers of large families and has been celebrated nationally since the 1920s, it was not until 1950 that the government gave it a fixed date. Like many other countries, French families give mothers gifts, cards, and flowers, though in France, Lily of the Valley is preferred. Special meals are followed by children reciting poems and giving cakes shaped like floral bouquets or hearts.


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