Celebrating maternal love : how Mother's Day is celebrated across cultures

The concept of honouring mothers on once special day of the year dates back to ancient civilizations. In ancient Greece the spring festival dedicated to Rhea, the Mother of the Gods, involved rituals and ceremonies to honour maternal figures. And ancient Romans celebrated Matronalia, a festival dedicated to Juno, the goddess of childbirth and motherhood.

Dedicating one day of the year to celebrate mothers continues to be observed around the world in unique ways and different days. Let's see how...

Perhaps the most surprising is that in the UK the term Mothering Sunday originates from `Mother church’. During the Middle Ages, people who had moved away from where they grew up were allowed to return one day a year during the Christian festival of Lent, so they could visit their home church and their mothers.

It’s also the most complicated, in terms of a date As Mothering Sunday falls on the fourth Sunday in Lent (or three Sundays before Easter) and as the dates of Lent change each year, so does the day we celebrate our mothers.

In France and many French former colonies, the `Fete des Meres’ is also subject to change. Usually taking place on the last Sunday of May, Mother’s Day moves to the first Sunday of June if the date falls on Pentecost. Civic Mother’s Day celebrations in France used to be common and some cities still present mothers with a `family medal’ – whether it’s bronze, silver or gold depends on the number of children she has!  

The second Sunday in May is the most popular date to celebrate mothers, which has its origins in the USA. Mother’s Day in the US is credited to Anna Jarvis, an American social activist. Inspired by her mother's dedication to community service and care for wounded soldiers during the Civil War, Jarvis held a memorial service for her mother on 12 May 1907 and campaigned for a national day to honour mothers. The President declared the second Sunday in May was to be officially recognised as a national holiday in 1914 and around 100 countries have since followed suit.

In Japan Mother’s Day is known as Haha no Hi. Japanese mothers are traditionally presented with carnations as a symbol of love and gratitude: pink carnations represent gratitude and white carnations symbolize the memory of deceased mothers.

In Peru families also celebrate deceased mothers by taking food to eat at the graveside of their mothers and grandmothers which they decorate with flowers, balloons and hearts.

Some Latin American countries, including Mexico, El Salvador and Guatemala celebrate Mother’s Day on 10 May. The date was reportedly chosen by a Mexican newspaper editor who wrote an article championing a day for mothers. On `Día de las Madres’ mothers are often woken by being serenaded by their children (and sometimes accompanied by a band!) then presented with red roses and a special breakfast.

International Women’s Day on 8 March is celebrated alongside Mother’s Day in a number of countries, mostly in the former Eastern Bloc and Russia.

In Thailand Mother’s Day is celebrated on August 12, Queen Sirikit’s birthday, as she is considered the mother of all Thai people. Thai people wear pink, Queen Sirikit's favourite colour, as a symbol of respect.

Regardless of the differences, the underlying sentiment of Mother's Day remains the same the world over: a heartfelt appreciation for the love, sacrifice, and guidance of mothers.

So if you're looking for a thoughtful Mother's Day gift, something beyond the usual flowers and chocolates will show her how much you care. Here are six gorgeous Mother's Day gift ideas that might help.