The long and curious history of Mother's Day

What is Mother's Day? And why is it celebrated on different dates around the world?

LAST UPDATED AT 16:21 ON Thu 27 Mar 2014

MOTHER'S DAY, or Mothering Sunday as it is known in the UK, is celebrated all over the world, but at different times of the year. In America, the annual celebration of "moms" takes place on the second Sunday of May, but in Britain it is held on the fourth Sunday of Lent - 30 March this year.

Where did it come from?
The modern version of Mother's Day has its origins in the US and date back to the creation of mother's groups, whose sons had fought in the Civil War. The American date was formalised in 1914 by President Woodrow Wilson. It was chosen after a campaign by a woman named Anna Jarvis, whose own mother died in May, 1907, the Daily Telegraph says.

The origins of the British date are a little more complicated. Some believe that Mothering Sunday may have originally derived from a 16th-century practice of visiting the 'mother church' - the main church in the region - on Laetare Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent. Historically, this was also a time when domestic servants were given time off to visit their families, the BBC says.

Mother's Day in its modern incarnation was brought back by a 20th-century British woman named Constance Smith, who was inspired by the campaign Jarvis had led in the US.

In 1920, Smith published a booklet entitled The Revival of Mothering Sunday, under the pseudonym C Penswick Smith. Things snowballed from there and by 1938, "Mothering Sunday was celebrated in every parish in Britain and in every country of the Empire", Cordelia Moyse, a historian of the international Christian charity, the Mothers' Union, tells the Telegraph. Today, it is more commonly known in the UK as Mother's Day.

Where else is it celebrated?
A version of Mother's Day is celebrated in many countries around the world, usually in spring, but dates vary from country to country. In Greece it is celebrated in February; in Argentina it occurs in October. Many former communist countries celebrate International Women's Day on 8 March instead of Mother's Day, the International Business Times notes.

In Britain it is traditional for people to cook their mother a simnel cake – a type of light fruit cake with two layers of marzipan, one in the middle and one on the top.

Simnel cakes, which are also associated with Easter, traditionally feature 11 balls of marzipan icing representing 11 of the 12 disciples (Judas is usually left out, except in extraordinarily forgiving Christian households). Today gifts of flowers or chocolates are more usual.

Where can I get a last-minute gift?

For gift ideas try The Independent's last-minute present guide. The Telegraph has one too.

Next year, Mother's Day will be on 15 March. No excuses for forgetting two years in a row. · 

Disqus - noscript

There is one mistake here. Mother's day in Greece is on the 2nd Sunday of May not February. In Feb is Valentine's day. It's important to get your facts right before you publish.

Yes, we celebrate 8th of March as Women's Day but Mother's Day we celebrate on 26th of May. Dorota Szkopiak

Where did you research the history? Probably Wikipedia as if it had been off the back of a Kellogs cornflake box you wouldn't of made so many mistakes lol

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 8 issues for £1.

Read more about