Mother’s Day, Children’s Day, Father’s Day… Where did they come from?

Jun 1, 2020

Families all over the world celebrate Mother’s Day, Children’s Day and Father’s Day to show their closest ones the appreciation for their presence. But when did these celebrations begin and what are the origins of the family holidays?

Mother’s Day

Photo: Neil Dodhia, Pixabay

The history of British Mother’s Day goes back to the 17th century and the Mothering Sunday tradition – on the 4th Sunday of Lent people would gather in cathedrals and churches for a holy mass and to give their mothers presents, mainly flowers. This tradition lasted until the 19th century and then again after the end of World War II. As a result, Mother’s Day in the UK and Ireland is still the 4th Sunday of Lent.

Meanwhile in the USA in 1858 Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis, a teacher and an activist from Philadelphia, was a successful advocate for annual celebrations of mothers’ hard work. In 1905 soon after her death, her daughter Anna Jarvis established Mother’s Day as the 12th of May. First time Mother’s Day was actually celebrated in 1908 Grafton, West Virginia organised by Ann Jarvis as the 3rd anniversary of her mother’s death. Eventually in 1914 president of the USA, Woodrow Wilson established the 2nd Sunday of May as National Mother’s Day.

Nowadays, the  vast majority of countries celebrate this holiday on the 2nd Sunday of May. Why do Polish people celebrate Mother’s Day on the 26th of May then? Poland celebrated Mother’s Day for the first time on the 26th of May 1923 in Cracow and it has been that way ever since without any known reason for the date. 

Children’s Day

Photo: fancycrave1, Pixabay

In 1954 the UN established the 20th of November as International Children’s Day and initiated Children’s Day celebration worldwide. Even though the UK decided that their Children’s Day is the 2nd Sunday of May and the USA chose the 2nd Sunday of June, many countries such as Canada, France or Ireland have stuck with the UN date till now. 

However, the 1st of June gained even more supporters as the Children’s Day than the November date and nowadays a lot of countries, including Poland, Bulgaria, China, Mongolia and many more, celebrate Children’s Day then.

An interesting fact about Polish Children’s Day is that Poland celebrated it a few years before UN’s official establishment in 1954. For Polish kids the 1st of June has been their day since 1950 when it was organised along with Stockholm Appeal (World Peace Council’s initiative to promote banning nuclear weapons and prevent atomic war). 

Father’s Day

Photo: StockSnap, Pixabay

After a huge success that Mother’s Day turned out to be in the USA there were more and more opinions to establish a celebration day for fathers as well. In 1910 Sonora Dodd, a daughter of the civil war veteran William Jackson Smart, came up with an idea to start celebrating Father’s Day annually and told her pastor about it in order to prepare a special mass at her family church in Spokane, Washington. She suggested the date as the 5th of June (her father’s birthday), however that would not have given the pastors enough time so it was postponed until the 19th of June – the 3rd Sunday of June. It became a very successful enterprise – hundreds of people brought roses to their family churches to honor their fathers. She kept promoting Father’s Day celebrations her whole life, however it wasn’t until 1972 when Father’s Day became a national holiday – president Richard Nixon established the 3rd of June as Father’s Day in the whole country. 

Other countries followed and now dads can enjoy their day on the 3rd Sunday of June in most of the countries in the world including the UK. Poland is consistent in being different though and it has a fixed date for Father’s Day celebrations as well – the 23rd of June (without any known reason), which hasn’t changed since 1965. 

Wiktoria Lewandowska

Cover photo: Pixabay, Mabel Amber

 

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