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Celebrating Mother’s Day

On Mother’s Day,many of us met our mothers if they stay away, or perhaps spend a little more time with her if she is staying together. We may even bring her flowers and gifts. For those, whose mothers have departed, a gentle and grateful memory will do.
Irrespective of its origin, any occasion to remember mothers and any celebration to appreciate and acknowledge their role in one’s life is not only welcome but is deeply gratifying.
In India, as in some other cultures around the world, honouring mothers transcends a single day. It is woven into the daily fabric of our lives, yet there is a palpable sense that these deep-rooted traditions are under siege by the modern world’s relentless pace and shifting values. It is a constant and continuing part of a cultural tradition that in modern times finds both diminution and dilution. The display and demonstration of this sacred sentiment has become far more visible and finds a social expansion like never before.
Mother's Day, then, is a celebration honouring mothers and motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society. It is a day for people to express their gratitude and appreciation for the sacrifices, self-abnegation, dedication, and love provided by mothers. But the essence essence of Mother’s Day invites us to reflect more deeply on the enduring connection and immeasurable influence of our mothers.
How It Began?
The origins of Mother's Day can be traced back to ancient times. The Greeks and Romans held festivals in honour of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele. However, these historical celebrations were more about worship of deities rather than honouring human mothers.
In Europe, particularly in the UK, the tradition transformed into "Mothering Sunday." Originally a day when people returned to their mother church (the main church near their home) during Lent, this occasion gradually became a more familial day, celebrating mothers and granting servants a day off to visit their own mothers.
The Modern-Day Mother’s Day
The American incarnation of Mother's Day, which the whole world follows today, was created by Anna Jarvis in the early 20th century. Disturbed by the death of her own mother in 1905, Jarvis conceived Mother's Day as a way of honouring the sacrifices mothers made for their children. The first official Mother's Day celebration took place at a Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia, in 1908. By 1914, driven by Jarvis' campaign, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson declared the second Sunday of May a national holiday dedicated to honouring mothers.
Yet, Anna Jarvis herself lamented the swift commercialization overshadowing her vision. She envisioned a day of personal reflection and genuine acknowledgment of mothers’ sacrifices, not merely an occasion for economic exchange. This tension between sentiment and commerce challenges us to consider: How might we restore the soul of this day?
Commercialism Vs Sentiments
While Anna Jarvis intended Mother’s Day to be a heartfelt celebration of love and appreciation, she became increasingly concerned and outspoken about the growing commercialisation of the holiday. By the 1920s, florists, card companies, and other merchants capitalised on the emotional connection of the day, promoting the sale of flowers, greeting cards, and other gifts as essential components of Mother's Day.
This commercial aspect has only grown, sometimes overshadowing the original purpose of the day. Critics argue that the emphasis on material gifts reduces the sincerity of the expression of love and gratitude to one’s mother. Despite the commercialisation, many still take the day as an opportunity to spend time with their mothers, perform acts of kindness, and express their feelings through personal gestures and quality time, maintaining the spirit of what Jarvis intended.
Reducing Commercialism
The concerns about the commercialization of Mother's Day and a desire to return to its more sentimental roots have indeed sparked various movements and perspectives on how to celebrate the day more meaningfully.
Many people advocate for a return to personal gestures like handmade cards, home-cooked meals, or personalized gifts that carry more emotional value and significance than store-bought items.
Spending quality time together is often more appreciated than material gifts. Activities can include a day out in nature, a visit to a favourite place, or simply a quiet day spent together.
Doing something meaningful for the mother, such as taking over daily chores or completing a project she cares about, can show appreciation in a practical and loving way.
Some choose to honour their mother by making donations to charities, especially those related to causes she cares about or was affected by. This becomes an extension of the love mother had for certain things and a homage to her memory.
Celebrating in the Absence of Mother
For those whose mothers have passed away or who might not have a mother figure in their lives, the day can be challenging but also an opportunity for remembrance and reflection.
Visiting the mother’s resting place, or places that were significant to her, can provide a moment of personal connection. Engaging in activities she enjoyed or preparing her favourite meal can also serve as a tribute.
Gathering with family and sharing fond memories of the mother can be both healing and uplifting. It’s a way to keep her memory alive and celebrate the impact she had on everyone’s lives.
Reaching out to friends or others in the community who may also be grieving or feeling the absence of their mother can help build a network of support and compassion.
A More Inclusive Approach
Finally, recognising that motherhood can take many forms is important. Celebrating stepmothers, grandmothers, adoptive mothers, and other maternal figures broadens the scope of the day, making it inclusive and acknowledging the diverse forms of motherhood and caregiving in society.
By focusing on emotional connections and personal gestures, Mother's Day can be a deeply personal celebration that honours mothers in a way that aligns with the original spirit of the day proposed by Anna Jarvis.
A Deeper Daily Reverence
While Mother’s Day provides a focused moment to honour maternal bonds, it also serves as a poignant reminder of the everyday reverence they deserve. The irony that we need a designated day to appreciate mothers suggests a deeper societal need to reflect on our values and upbringing. 
This day, and every day, let us strive to offer back even a fraction of the happiness and bliss that our mothers bestowed upon us in our upbringing. Let us recognize and cherish the everyday miracles wrought by their hands and hearts.

(Uday Kumar Varma is an IAS officer. Retired as Secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting)


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