May 06, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

HISTORY OF MOTHER’S DAY: Mother’s Day is held on the second Sunday of May in the United States. It’s a day when young and old honor their mothers in a variety of ways. This year, in 2010, it will be celebrated on May 9th.

The earliest Mother's Day celebrations can be traced back to the spring celebrations of ancient Greece in honor of Rhea, the Mother of the Gods. During the 1600's, early Christians in England celebrated a day to honor Mary, the mother of Christ. By a religious order the holiday was later expanded in its scope to include all mothers; it was named “Mothering Sunday” and celebrated on the 4th Sunday of Lent. During this time many of England's poor worked as servants. On Mothering Sunday, they would have the day off and be encouraged to spend the day with their mothers. They would often bring their moms a special cake, called the “mothering cake”, to provide a festive touch.

Social activist Julia Ward Howe first brought the idea of a day focused on mothers to the United States after the Civil War, but Howe’s vision was much different from the flowers-and-hugs version we know today. Horrified by the carnage of the American Civil & Franco-Prussian Wars, Howe wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation” and began promoting the idea of a "Mother's Day for Peace". It was to be celebrated on June 2, honoring peace, motherhood and womanhood. Although Howe failed to get the formal recognition of a Mother's Day for Peace, it is a historical landmark in the sense that it was the precursor to the modern Mother's Day celebrations. To acknowledge Howe's achievements, a stamp was issued in her honor in 1988.

Howe's idea was influenced by Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis, a young Appalachian homemaker who, starting in 1858, had attempted to improve sanitation through her "Mothers Friendship Day". In the 1900's, while most women devoted their time solely to family and homes, Jarvis worked to assist in the healing of the nation after the Civil War. She organized women throughout the Civil War to work for better sanitary conditions and, in 1868, she began work to reconcile Union and Confederate neighbors. She was instrumental in saving thousands of lives by teaching women the basics of nursing and sanitation.

But, it was Jarvis' daughter, Anna Jarvis, who finally succeeded in introducing Mother's Day as we celebrate it today. Anna never married, and had spent many years looking after her mother. When her mother died on May 9, 1905, Anna missed her greatly. Feeling that children failed to fully appreciate their mothers while alive, Anna wanted to start a Mother's Day to honor the mothers. In 1907, two years after her mother's death, Anna Jarvis disclosed her intention to her friends. Fully supported by her friends, Anna decided to dedicate her life to her mother's cause and establish Mother's Day to "honor mothers, living and dead." With their help, she started a letter-writing campaign to urge ministers, businessmen and congressmen in declaring a national Mother's Day holiday. She hoped Mother's Day would increase respect for parents and strengthen family bonds.

As a result of her efforts the first mother's day was observed on May 10, 1908, by a church service honoring Late Mrs. Reese Jarvis, in the Andrews Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia, where she had spent 20 years teaching Sunday school. Another service was conducted on the same date in Philadelphia where Mrs. Jarvis died, leaving her two daughters Anna and Elsinore. So it was more of a homage service for Mrs. Reeves Jarvis than a general one conducted in honor of motherhood.

It was in this first observance that the carnations were introduced by Miss Jarvis. Large jars of white carnations were set about the stage and, at the end of the service one was given to each attendee as a souvenir. All this was done because the late elder Jarvis was fond of carnations. Carnations are the flowers associated with Mother's Day. White carnations are used to pay tribute to mothers who are deceased, while pink or red carnations are presented to moms that are still living.

From there, Mother’s Day caught on -- spreading eventually to 45 states. The first Mother's Day proclamation was issued by the governor of West Virginia in 1910. And by 1911 there was not a state in the Union that did not have its own observances for Mother's Day. Soon it crossed the national boundary, as people in Mexico, Canada, South America, China, Japan and Africa all joined the spree to celebrate a day for mother love.

On May 9, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson made the first official announcement proclaiming Mother's Day as a national holiday that was to be held each year on the 2nd Sunday of May. He asked Americans to give a public expression of reverence to mothers through the celebration of Mother's Day:

"Now, Therefore, I, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the said Joint Resolution, do hereby direct the government officials to display the United States flag on all government buildings and do invite the people of the United States to display the flag at their homes or other suitable places on the second Sunday in May as a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country."

Nine years after the first official Mother's Day, commercialization of the U.S. holiday became so rampant that Anna Jarvis became a major opponent of what the holiday had become. This made Anna Jarvis disillusioned with her own creation. Though the original spirit of honoring the mothers remained the same, what began as a religious service expanded quickly into a more secular observance leading to giving of flowers, cards, and gifts. And Anna Jarvis was unable to cope with this changing mode of expression.

Mother's Day continues to be one of the most commercially successful U.S. occasions. The day usually rakes in $2.6 billion on flowers, $1.53 billion on gifts (generating 7.8 percent of annual revenue for the United States jewelry industry), and $68 million on greeting cards. The occasion is now celebrated not so much with flags as with gifts, cards, hugs, thank yous and other tokens of affection. According to the National Restaurant Association, Mother's Day is now the most popular day of the year to dine out at a restaurant in the United States.

SPECIAL MOTHERS: A mother is a very special part of any living being's life. She is always loving and caring for her child. This fact is equally applicable to the mothers of all different species. Read on for some examples of mothers who do something very special for their young ones.

• The mother chimpanzee usually develops lifelong relationships with her offspring, same as the human beings.
• The bond between mother and child orangutans is so strong that the infants cling almost continually to their mothers until they are 1½ years old.
• A female kangaroo that has recently given birth is capable of holding a reserve embryo inside of her after her first baby has crawled into her pouch. For her, this embryo is just like an "emergency back-up" baby, in case the first one dies prematurely.
• A mother giraffe is unique as she often gives birth to a child while standing. So the newborn’s first experiences a nearly 6-foot drop outside its mother's womb.
• Mother cats give birth to blind and deaf kittens. It is the vibration of their mother's purring that acts as a physical signal for the kittens.
• A mother rabbit could abandon, ignore or even eat her young ones if she is frightened or threatened.
• Mother Mexican free-tailed bats find and nurse their own young, even in huge colonies. In these colonies many millions of babies cluster at up to 500 bats per square foot.
• When the baby opossum is born, it is so small that an entire litter can fit in a tablespoon. It lives inside its mother's pouch for nearly three months and then climbs out and rides on her back.
• A female oyster is capable of producing over 100 million young ones over her lifetime.


We’ve chosen a coffee cake recipe to share this month that will make a great Southwest version of a Mothering Cake for your Mother’s Day Brunch this year! The recipe is "Western Breakfast and Brunch Recipes". Permission to reprint the recipe has been granted by Golden West Publishers in Phoenix, Arizona.

  • ¼ lb. melted BUTTER
  • 2 EGGS
  • 1 cup SUGAR
  • 2/3 cups MILK
  • 1 tsp. SALT
  • 1 tsp. VANILLA
  • ¼ cup SUGAR
In large mixing bowl blend together butter, eggs and sugar. Slowly stir in flour until well blended. Add baking powder, milk, salt, orange rind and vanilla. Stir until completely blended. Pour into a 9 x 9 cake pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Spread a thick layer of melted butter over the top of the cake. Combine sugar and flour and sprinkle over butter. Bake an additional 30 minutes. Remove when top is deep golden brown.