The “modern” Mother’s Day, as it is celebrated today in America, became an official US holiday one hundred years ago, in 1914. But the celebration of mothers and motherhood can trace its ancestry all the way back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who held festivals in honor of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele.
Let’s take a look at some of the more popular ways to celebrate Mother’s Day (and suggest a few alternatives of our own):
Mother’s Day is big business. In the United States, Mother’s Day is celebrated by presenting mothers and other women with gifts and flowers, and the occasion has become one of the biggest holidays for consumer spending. In the U.S. alone, Mother’s Day 2012 spending reached $18.6 billion. A far cry from macaroni necklaces and tissue-paper flowers you made for Mom in grade school, the average adult today spends about $150 on gifts, the National Retail Federation estimates.*
When you care enough to send the very best. Thinking of buying a thoughtful card for Mom? Hallmark Cards, which has been marketing Mother’s Day cards since the 1920s, says that this weekend’s holiday is the third-biggest card-buying holiday (behind Christmas and Valentine’s Day, natch). With an estimated 84 million moms in the US alone, that’s a lot of pastel, flowery cards (and a lot of sentimental poetry).
Interestingly, that the woman who campaigned to make Mother’s Day an official US holiday, Anna Jarvis, thought that cards were a lazy way of showing Mom how much you care: “A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world,” she once said, according to the book Women Who Made a Difference.
Besides, a hand-written letter, word of love or thanks, in your own words, may say it better than any pre-printed card could ever do. Check out what George Washington said about his mom: “My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.”
Or say it with quiche – but make reservations first. Lots of folks talk about “giving mom the day off” from her usual cooking and fussing over you, as she no doubt does the rest of the year. The U.S. National Restaurant Association reports that Mother’s Day is the year’s most popular holiday for dining out. Last year the association estimated that some 75 million U.S. adults would do just that on the holiday.
I just called to say I love you. Fun fact: There are more phone calls made on Mother’s Day than on any other day of the year. An AT&T survey estimated that 122.5 million phone calls to Mom are made on Mother’s Day. These holiday chats with Mom often cause phone traffic to spike by as much as 37 percent.
Hearts and flowers (and necklaces). The retail federation also reports that sixty-six percent of Americans celebrating Mother’s Day will give their mothers flowers (that’s a lot of vases and flowerpots!), and almost one in three gift-givers plan to give their mothers gifts of jewelry.
How are you celebrating your mother (spouse, grandmother, mother-in-law) this Mother’s Day? Will you be going the popular card-phone call-flowers-jewelry-brunch route, or will you be doing something out of the ordinary for her this year?
*We have dozens of gift boxes, and scads of thoughtful gift ideas, that will ring up at a fraction of that amount. Mom will appreciate that your excellent gift choice was also a smart money decision.
Photo credits: Getty Images