Getting to the heart of Mother’s Day…

Founder of Mother's Day Anna M. Jarvis
Founder of Mother's Day Anna M. Jarvis

…loved by all, hated by its founder!

Growing up in India, I had not celebrated a formal Mother’s Day simply because it did not exist then. Now, it is all the rage in India and amongst the Indian diaspora around the world. Have I been a terrible son for all those 25 years? Will I burn in hell?? LOL.

So, how come an ancient civilised culture slipped up and did not have a day dedicated exclusively to the mother (or father!)?

Sarcasm aside, Hindu dharma does stress the importance of children loving and respecting their mother and father, and parents in turn loving and fostering their children. Durga Pooja, by the Hindus, is a form of motherhood worship.

Celebrations of mothers and motherhood can also be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who held festivals in honour of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele.

The Hindu mantras such as Matru Devo Bhava (Honour your mother as God) and ya devi sarva bhooteshu matru roopena samsthita namastasyai namastasyai namastasyai namo namaha (Salutations to the divine mother, whose art manifest in every being’s existence as mother, I worship thee, over and over and over again) are etched into the Hindu holy scriptures and the Indian psyche.

Every day is Mother’s Day in India, or so it seems. The high percentage of Indian arranged marriages bear testimony to this fact!

Why is there a spurt in the interest for celebrating Mother’s Day in India and also among the Indian diaspora in foreign lands, when there had been no such practice in the past? Is it to keep up with the Joneses of the world? Or is it to appear “cool”, “progressive”, “modern” or “Western”?

There are two influential drivers for the popularity of Mother’s Day (Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day etc etc)—globalisation and commercialisation.

Most people are blissfully ignorant of the origins of Mother’s Day.

Anna Jarvis was the founder of the modern Mother’s Day, in USA, in 1908, in memory of her mother, who was an activist and social worker. This day was meant to honour the over-worked and under-appreciated mothers and to pay tribute to the contributions made by them to the family structure. It is interesting to note that Anna Jarvis never married nor did she have any children.

And then the commercial juggernaut rode into town and sabotaged the spirit behind Mother’s Day, which still is the case today. The florist, greeting cards and chocolate business interests took over the celebrations and completely commercialised it and broke the heart of Anna Jarvis. Anna Jarvis spent the next 40 years of her life, till her death, fighting against charities and businesses, to rescue the day she had created, from the jaws of commercial greed.

Jarvis’s idea of celebrating Mother’s Day would be a home visitor writing a long letter to the mother. She has reportedly said, “A maudlin, insincere printed card or ready-made telegram means nothing except that you’re too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone else in the world. Any mother would rather have a line of the worst scribble from her son or daughter than any fancy greeting card.”

She referred to the florists, greeting card manufacturers and the confectionery industry as “charlatans, bandits, pirates, racketeers, kidnappers and termites that would undermine with their greed one of the finest, noblest and truest movements and celebrations”.

She is right on the money with these remarks. In the days leading up to Mother’s Day, we are constantly bombarded with advertisements in the media, coaxing us to buy jewellery, chocolates, clothes and flowers, eating out, cruises, spa, massage and beauty treatments, etc as a way of expressing love for one’s mother.

I have seen ads urging me to buy lingerie for my mother! Now, how do I pull this one off without getting slapped across the face? LMAO. And how do I convince her to go in for botox? ROFL.

Globalisation has also helped in the spread of such “commercial days”. With people criss-crossing international country borders more than ever and returning NRIs bringing “Western” customs to India, such events have gained in popularity, enthusiastically supported by the ever-helping hand of commercialisation, which has a vested interest.

Anna Jarvis would be turning in her grave every Mothers’ Day. So, this Mother’s Day, give some thought to her and observe the true spirit of her ‘Day’ by spending some quality time with mum.

If you wish to get away from the hype and commercialisation, why not celebrate Mother’s Day on the date of your choosing (your mother’s birthday, for example) rather than be dictated by commercial powers?. A quiet dinner at home with your mum, followed by taking a walk down the memory lane, would be the best display of love and affection for her—the way Anna Jarvis really wanted.


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