Why Celebrate Mother’s Day?

“Honor your father and your mother . . . that your days may be long” (Deuteronomy 5:16).

The United States’ observance of Mother’s Day is held each year on the second Sunday in May. The holiday can be traced back to the Mother’s Day Proclamation written by Julia Ward Howe in the aftermath of the American Civil War. It was a reflection of her pacifist reaction to the horrors of the war and her conviction that mothers had a rightful voice in the conduct of public affairs. There were other attempts to create a Mother’s Day holiday in the ensuing years, but none succeeded beyond local observances.

The current holiday was created through the efforts of Anna Jarvis, continuing the work of her mother Ann Jarvis, who dreamed of creating a holiday to honor all mothers. With the help of Philadelphia department store magnate John Wanamaker, Jarvis persuaded President Woodrow Wilson to make it a national holiday in 1914.

Intentionally or not, the support of retail genius Wanamaker proved predictive, and Mother’s Day soon became so commercially successful that many opposed it, including its founder Jarvis, who spent her inheritance and the rest of her life opposing it. Such opposition has done little to slow down the commercial juggernaut that Mother’s Day has become. It is the most popular day of the year for dining out in a restaurant. According to the National Retail Federation’s annual Mother’s Day survey, 86% of Americans celebrated this day in 2018 with the average individual spending $180 on a gift; approximately $4.6 billion on jewelry, $2.6 billion on flowers, and another $813 million on greeting cards.

Mother’s Day has also become the third most popular day for church attendance in the United States, behind only Christmas and Easter. There are no doubt many reasons for this phenomenon, beginning with the fact that the mother is statistically more likely to be the chief church attendance promoter in the family and the holiday in her honor gives her entreaties a particular irresistibility.

However, Mother’s Day can be difficult for many. Some mothers may not be able to be with their children (and vice versa). Some women are unable to have children for a variety of reasons. If you are “celebrating” mothers in any way on this day in your congregation, please be sensitive to all worshipers. The below litany (from Faithful Celebrations: Making Time with Family and Friends) is cognizant of the many forms that makes up a family.

A Litany for Mothers

Let us give thanks to God for the many gifts we have been given.
We thank you Lord.
Today let us especially give thanks for our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, cousins and friends who have been like mothers to us.
We thank you Lord.
For surrogate mothers who provide the gift of a child to those families who otherwise could not have children.
We thank you Lord.
For blended families who provide a loving home for the children and parents.
We thank you Lord.
For adoptive parents who welcome children into their home to love and care for them.
We thank you Lord.
We remember today those who are alone, who have no children, or whose children have moved away from home and can’t be present today.
Good Lord, hear us.
We remember those mothers who suffer from famine, disease and poverty and who see their children suffer.
Good Lord, hear us.
We remember today those who have lost a child or a mother.
Good Lord, hear us.
We remember today your Son’s blessed Mother, Mary. Help us to be kind and gentle as she was.
Good Lord, hear us.
 These things we pray in the name of your Son, Jesus. Amen.

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