Mothers and families to the fore
Today as well as the coming Thursday would be very special days for
all of you as members of a family. Why? Because today (the second Sunday
of May) is Mothers’ Day and May 15 (Thursday) is the International Day
of Families. The two days are also related, with the mother holding
pride of place as the most important member of the family unit.
Mothers’ Day is held on different days in different countries, but
always with the same purpose - to honour mothers - the givers of life.
The difference in the dates is mostly to do with the different origins
associated with the event.
One theory is that the custom of worshipping mothers originated in
ancient Greece, where a festival was held to honour Cybele, the great
mother of Greek gods. This festival was held around the Vernal Equinox
and later spread to Rome and was held between March 15 and 18.
Ancient Romans also organised a festival called Matronalia which was
dedicated to the goddess Juno. This was a day when gifts were presented
to mothers so the custom of showering mothers with gifts on Mothers’ Day
may have originated with this event. In the UK and Ireland, the day,
also known as Mothering Sunday, was held on the fourth Sunday of Lent
(three weeks before Easter Sunday).
The tradition of having Mothers’ Day on the second Sunday of May
originated in the USA. It was introduced by Julia Ward Howe after the
American Civil War as a call to unite women against the war. In 1870,
she wrote the Mothers’ Day Proclamation as a call for peace and
It is believed that she had been influenced by Ann Jarvis, who, from
1858, tried to improve sanitation through Mothers’ Work Days. While the
war was raging on, she tried to get women from both sides to improve the
sanitary conditions on each side. Ann died in 1907 and her daughter Anna
Jarvis started a campaign to get a memorial day for women.
The very first Mothers’ Day was held on Grafton, West Virginia on May
10, 1908 in the church where Ann had conducted Sunday school. Grafton is
now home to the International Mothers’ Day Shrine.
The event spread to 45 states and was declared officially by some
states in 1912. US President Woodrow Wilson declared the first Mothers’
Day in 1914. As much as the family is dependent on mothers, fathers play
an equally important role. This role will be recognised on this year’s
International Day of Families as it will be conducted under the theme
‘Fathers and Families: Responsibilities and Challenges’.
This day was initiated by the United Nations General Assembly on
September 20, 1993. The UN uses this day to encourage governments and
other organisations to initiate family-oriented projects, hold special
conferences, symposia and cultural events on the family, bring into
force family legislation, and discuss national family policies. Now you
see the importance of this week.
It is not only a week to honour your mother, but your entire family.
Show them that you love and care for them. Make a commitment to learn
and practise good family values while inculcating such values in the
other members of your family as well, especially your younger siblings.
However, we in Sri Lanka need not wait for these special days to show
our respect and love for our mothers or families because traditionally,
we have been taught to value family ties.But such days could be used to
strengthen these ties.