Monday, May 12, 2014

Strange Mother's Day Facts & Origins Around the World

Bouquets of flowers from a Seattle, U.S. farmers' market, ready to give to mom (photo by Simone Cannon)

Every year during the month of May in the U.S. and Canada, we celebrate the happy occasion of Mother's Day, honoring our mothers by bringing gifts such as flowers and sweets or taking them to a nice brunch. We recognize our moms for the sacrifices they have made raising us and for their ongoing support and friendship. We appropriately celebrate in the spring month of May, traditionally the season of birth and rebirth, fertilization, new beginnings and life itself. But not everyone in the world shares our traditions. Although we think of Mother's Day as a happy light-hearted day of celebration and spending time with mom, in some countries it is a more somber day or it occurs at a different time of year. Here's a look at the more unusual customs around the world.

Argentina: Mother's Day is also celebrated in spring, but because it is in the Southern Hemisphere, where seasons are opposite to those of the Northern Hemisphere, it falls during the third week of October when spring flowers for gift-giving are in full bloom. Other countries in the southern hemisphere, such as Malawi, follow suit.

Mother and baby, La Paz, Bolivia (photo by Simone Cannon)

Bolivia: Mother's Day, also known as the Day of the Heroines of Coronillas, is less celebratory and festive since it commemorates the deaths of hundreds of women in the battle for Bolivian independence against the invading Spaniards. When most of the male soldiers had been killed in the initial battles, the wives, sisters, mothers and daughters refused to give up and took up the fight. It may sound like a depressing day, but in fact, celebrates the bravery of these incredible, strong-minded and proud women who refused to surrender their country and freedom to the conquistadors. Thanks in great part to their efforts, Bolivia finally did achieve independence from colonial rule in 1825.

France & Germany: Mother's Day was originally adopted in these countries to promote child-bearing. In the early 1900s, the birth rate of many European countries was in steep decline and governments started to panic. In France, they even offered a merit award to mothers who gave birth to more than nine children. Mother's Day was seen as a way to "promote family values", that is, to encourage more women to take up what was considered at that time to be the only acceptable female role: to bear children. Today, mothers of all size families are honored.      

Frangipani (Plumeria) flower offerings in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia (photo by Simone Cannon)

Indonesia: empowering women is the time-honored basis for celebration on this island nation, where Mother's Day is held on the anniversary of the first Women's Congress. Indonesia has always been far ahead of much of the world regarding women's rights, having established its first feminist organizations in 1912. Despite the efforts of the late President Suharto to use the occasion to encourage women to stay at home and to keep out of politics, the day has continued to focus on improving women's lives through education and social policies.

Nepal: all mothers are honored on the roof of world, including the living and the dead. The holiday, which lasts for two weeks and is called Mata Tirtha Puja or "Mother Pilgrimage Worship", includes visiting local ponds in the hope of seeing a late mother's face in the reflective waters. As well as providing solace to grieving children, the practice is thought to bestow a sense of peace on the dead.

Staring into the pond, Mother's Day in Nepal (photo courtesy of

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