Celebrations of mothers and motherhood can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who held festivals in honour of the goddesses Rhea and Cybele.
But the clearest modern precedent for Mother’s Day is the early Christian festival known as “Mothering Sunday”.
A major tradition in the United Kingdom and certain parts of Europe, this celebration fell on the fourth Sunday in Lent and was originally seen as a time when the faithful would return to their “mother church”— the main church in the vicinity of their home — for a special service. Over time the Mothering Sunday tradition shifted into a more secular holiday, and children would present their mothers with flowers and other tokens of appreciation. This custom eventually faded into obscurity before it was revived by the American Mother’s Day celebrations in the 1930s.
Long before florists and card companies took centre stage on Mother’s Day, the holiday was not about gifts or even moms.
In fact, according to the History of Mother’s Day, the holiday’s founder actively fought to have it stricken from the US calendar after consumerism took over.
In South Africa, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in May.