Mother′s Day: Commercialization vs. gratitude | Lifestyle | DW | 13.05.2017

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Mother's Day: Commercialization vs. gratitude

Somehow, it always comes as a surprise - Mother's Day on the second Sunday in May. Flower shops tend to be prepared well in advance. The holiday's commercialization has been criticized ever since it was first celebrated.

There have always been celebrations and rituals around the world to honor motherhood and maternal bonds - among them, for example, the Greek cult to Cybele, the Roman festival of Hilaria and the Christian Mothering Sunday. Mother's Day is just the latest in a long line of such celebrations.

But what many may not know is that Mother's Day was started in the US in the early 20th century. It was first celebrated in 1908 when a woman named Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother at Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia. The church is now home to the International Mother's Day Shrine.

The tradition was not only imported to Germany, but found its way to numerous other countries around the globe - though it's celebrated on different days of the year. In the US and Germany, the big day is the second Sunday in May. The actual date differs from year to year, which is why most people only remember at the very last moment.

Just commercialism?

It's interesting to note that modern criticism of Mother's Day as a commercialized tradition echoes criticism already voiced by the celebration's founder, Anna Jarvis.

She complained about the commercialization of the holiday in the early 20th century, claiming the emphasis should be on gratitude, not on profit.

According to Jarvis, people should honor their mothers through handwritten letters expressing their gratitude, instead of wasting money on flowers, gifts and pre-made cards. What should count, therefore, is love - not money.

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