The earliest Mother's Day celebrations can be traced to the spring celebrations of ancient Greece in honor of Rhea, the Mother of the Gods. During the 1600s, England celebrated a day called "Mothering Sunday," on the fourth Sunday of Lent (the 40-day period leading up to Easter). "Mothering Sunday" honored the mothers of England.
During this time, many of England's poor worked as servants for the wealthy. As most jobs were located far from their homes, the servants lived at the houses of their employers. On Mothering Sunday, servants had the day off and were encouraged to return home to spend the day with their mothers. A special cake, called the mothering cake, was often brought along to provide a festive touch.
As Christianity spread throughout Europe, the celebration changed to honor the "Mother Church" -- the spiritual power that gave them life and protected them from harm. Over time, the church festival blended with the Mothering Sunday celebration. People began honoring their mothers as well as the church.
In the United States, Mother's Day was first suggested in 1872 by Julia Ward Howe (who wrote the words to the "Battle Hymn of the Republic") as a day dedicated to peace. Ms. Howe organized Mother's Day meetings in Boston every year.
In 1907, Anna Jarvis, of Philadelphia, campaigned to establish a national Mother's Day. Ms. Jarvis persuaded her mother's church in Grafton, West Virginia, to celebrate Mother's Day on the second anniversary of her mother's death, the second Sunday of May. By the next year, Mother's Day was also celebrated in Philadelphia.
Ms. Jarvis and her supporters wrote to ministers, businessmen and politicians in their quest to establish a national Mother's Day. It was successful, and by 1911, Mother's Day was celebrated in almost every state. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson made the official announcement proclaiming Mother's Day as a national holiday that was to be held each year on the second Sunday of May.
While many countries celebrate their own Mother's Days at different times throughout the year, some countries, like Denmark, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Australia and Belgium, also celebrate Mother's Day on the second Sunday of May.