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DateLine Sunday, 11 May 2008

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Government Gazette

Every day is a Mother’s Day



Professor emeritus Kusuma Karunaratna

Unconditional motherly love has always been a major source of inspiration for the great writers. It has made many a poet compose masterpieces. Songs written on unlimited motherly love are so appealing and listeners will never get tired of them. Portraits and drawings which depict the mother-child relationship have always been pleasing to the eye.

Mother’s Day will be celebrated today (Mother’s Day is usually celebrated on the second Sunday of May.) in most of the countries across the world and children will pay homage to their mothers with flowers and gifts in recognition of mothers’ contribution in their lives to say ‘thank you’ for her unconditional love!

Though the concept of celebrating a Mother’s Day in honour of her immense contribution to the betterment of the society emerged in the West (See Box), it has become increasingly popular in most parts of the world now. However even in the West the concept was never motivated by commercial factors at its initial stage.

Anyway mainly in a country like Sri Lanka where the role of mother is always upheld with utmost respect, do we need to have a separate day to pay homage to her unconditional love? Is not every day a mother’s day?

Mother’s day is gradually becoming an occasion mainly of the business sector and certain media organisations. According to eminent Professor emeritus Kusuma Karunaratna a Mother’s day is quite an unnecessary celebration in a country like Sri Lanka which has a great culture largely enriched by Buddhism.

“As a nation we have a great regard for motherhood. Actually it is a part of our culture. The mother-child relationship has always been strong and inseparable. So we do not need a separate day to pay homage to mother.”

The former Acting Vice Chancellor, Ex-Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and the former Head of the Department of Sinhala , University of Colombo further added that the situation is different in the West.

Over there the mother-child relationship does not stay too long as most of the children tend to leave their homes to live separately at an early age like 15 or so. Since the practice has been the order of the day, children in the West do ‘actually need a day or two to pay their respects to their parents.

“Then they will go to wherever their mothers live either to the apartment or to the elders’ home may be with a rose or two to show them what a lot a mother means to them.”

In the past the extended family system was common in Sri Lanka. Children used to live with their parents even after marriage and as a result they were always closely attached to their parents. But the situation has gradually changed with urbanization. As people started moving to the city in their quest of employment, they had to leave their old parents in the villages.

“But it is happy to note that majority of children still hold on to the traditional view. Since they never fail to visit their parents whenever they can, they do not need a Mother’s Day.

When asked of the changing social pattern with the gradual emergence of elders’ homes, Professor Karunaratna noted that it is because not all the children are alike. “There is also a sector of children who have neglected their old parents completely. Anyway it is difficult to give a generalisation as still the majority of children are fully aware of their responsibilities.”

The concept is mainly promoted through certain media channels and business sector. “They try their best to make it a special occasion as it is they who will be benefitted from it in the end”

Motherhood is treated with utmost respect in almost all the religions. The Buddha has emphasized that a person has no one else worthy of honour and respect as his/her mother. Mother is always given the priority when referring to the parental pair. The close relationship between mother and her offspring is often highlighted. “Mother is the best of friends,best of relatives and best of elders.”

It is also mentioned in the Buddhist literature that when asked “who is the best friend one has at home?” The Buddha had replied “The mother is the best friend one has at home.”

Also when referring to the Sangha the Buddha had preached to them that the Sangha should always try to protect their virtues just like the mother who protects her own child even at the expense of her life


How the Mother’s Day originated

The Concept of Mother’s day is believed to have originated several centuries ago. Spring celebrations of Ancient Greece in honour of Rhea, the mother of gods marks its beginning.

During the 1600s, the early Christians in England had celebrated a day to pay reverence to Mother Mary. Later by a religious order the day was named as the Mothering day, also widening its scope to include all mothers and it was celebrated on the 4th Sunday of Lent (the forty day period leading upto Easter.)

In fact the day was then celebrated in honour of all the mothers. Since most of the England’s poor worked as servants of the wealthy, they had to stay in the houses of their masters. But on Mothering Day servants were allowed to go to their homes to spend the day with their mothers.

With the propagation of Christianity, the celebration changed to honour the “Mother church” - the spiritual power that gave them life and protected them from destruction. As the years passed, the church festival blended with the Mothering Sunday celebration. People then began to honour their mothers and the church.

In the U.S.A the concept of Mother’s Day was first suggested by social activist, Julia Ward Howe. Shocked by the destruction caused by the American Civil war and the Franco-Prussian war, she appealed to war mothers the women who supported their husbands and sons of war.

In the Boston Mass she initiated a Mother’s peace day observance on the second Sunday in June and for nearly ten years it existed as an annual event. Though she failed in her attempt to get the formal recognition of a Mother’s Day for peace, her dedication is largely appreciated.

Howe’s views were also influenced by Ann Marie Reeves Javis. Javis was working to assist in the healing of the nation after the civil war.

In the U.S.A. it was Anna Jarvis, Jarvis’ daughter who finally succeeded in introducing Mother’s day which we celebrate up to this date. As she felt that children often fail to appreciate their mothers enough while the mother was still alive, she was determined to introduce a Mother’s Day which would increase respect for parents.

Finally in 1912 the day was officially declared a holiday. Second Sunday of May was named as the Mother’s Day. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson made the first official statement proclaiming Mother’s Day as a national holiday.

Ironically, as the holiday became quite commercialised in later years, the founder herself became a major opponent of what the holiday had become.

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