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Mother’s Day & Father’s Day
Around the World

(Below pictures are licensed and provided by iStock)

Written by Brynn Mitchell
Edited and Illustrated by Chau Tonnu

Planet earth with some clouds. America's view.

All over the world and throughout history people have celebrated parents. There is something universal about honoring the people who raised us and acknowledging the loving sacrifices that parents make for their children every day. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day represent moments to stop and celebrate the parents, grandparents, chosen parents and guardians who have affected our lives for the better.

The origins of Father’s Day can be traced all the way back to ancient Rome, where a day in February was set aside to remember fathers who had passed away. Mother’s Day can also be traced back to ancient times when the Greeks designated a festival to honor Rhea, the mother of the gods.

The roots of these holidays as they are celebrated today, however, vary from country to country. England is believed to be the first country to dedicate an official holiday to mothers called “Mothering Sunday”. In the early 1600’s this holiday was designed to allow children who worked away from their families to visit their mothers. It was usually the fourth Sunday of Lent and was celebrated by children of all ages bringing flowers and attending the church where their mothers worshiped.

In India, the western version of the holidays is celebrated by some, but there is also a day to celebrate parents together. Parents Worship Day, or Matru Pitru Poojan Diwas, is celebrated in lieu of Valentine’s Day on February 14th. The day is marked by parents going to school with their children for sweet treats and Aarti performances.

Many African countries celebrate the western holidays in tandem with their own traditions. Father’s Day is often celebrated by giving dads a chance to relax while Nigeria, Ghana, and Zimbabwe have a tradition of picnics to celebrate Father’s Day. Ethiopia celebrates mothers during a three-day Antrosht Festival marked by large gatherings and meals where daughters bring spices and vegetables, and sons bring various kinds of meat.

Many countries choose to celebrate Mothers’ and Fathers’ Day on specific dates to honor important saints, beloved royalty, or historical figures. Brazil, for example, celebrates Father’s Day on the second Sunday in August in order to honor St. Joachim, the father of Mary and patron saint of fathers and grandfathers. And in Thailand, Mother’s Day is celebrated on August 12th in order to celebrate the current Queen’s birthday.

In the US, the origins of Mother’s Day are usually traced back to Anna Reeves Jarvis who, during the Civil War, rallied a group of women to nurse soldiers from both sides back to health. After the war, she began “Mother’s Friendship Days” where families across the Mason Dixon line could come together in community. In 1907, the first Mother’s Day was celebrated in order to commemorate Ms. Jarvis’ peacemaking efforts. Father’s Day in the US began for more personal reasons. One woman was inspired by a Mother’s Day sermon to celebrate her father who raised her by himself. The first Father’s Day was celebrated at a YMCA in her hometown of Spokane, WA in 1908.

Both holidays became highly commercialized and evolved throughout the years. In the 30’s and 40’s there were efforts to combine the holidays but struggling retailers during WWII fought for the existence of two separate days in order to reap the financial benefits. Thus, after the war, both holidays were firmly established.

Much like India, Vietnam celebrates Mothers and Fathers on the same occasion. The holiday “Vu Lan ” celebrates both parents on the 15th day of the 7th month of the lunar calendar. The holiday coincides with the Asian Ghost Festivals where lost souls are pardoned and appeased with food offerings. On Vu Lan, parents and elders are honored and remembered, and as people attend temple, they receive a colored rose to signify if they have living or deceased parents. Red roses symbolize both parents living, pink roses signify one parent living, and white roses represent both parents deceased.

Today, the dates on which Mothers and Fathers are celebrated vary across the world, but the way we celebrate is familiar. We mark the day with thoughtful gifts and fun activities intended to praise parents for all the work they do. We also use the universal language of food to celebrate. Coming around the table for a delicious meal is a tried-and-true way to commemorate the special people and occasions in our lives. Food is a staple of celebration and can make an excellent gift for the people we love and respect the most. Me’s Way Chili Sauce is the perfect gift for the spice-loving mom or dad in your life and makes a delightful addition to the Mother’s and Father’s Day table.