Did you ever wonder why Mother’s Day in the United Kingdom and the United States are on different days?

Although they seem very similar now, they’re actually completely different holidays with very different origins.

Below, we take a brief look at the history of each day on both sides of the Atlantic.

In the UK


Hundreds of years ago in Britain, it was a tradition that once a year, during Lent, people would worship at their “mother” church. This would be the largest church or cathedral in the area, as opposed to smaller parish churches in towns and villages.

Children in service or apprenticeships, some as young as 10, would be given this day off to go to their mother church with their families. This became known as “Mothering Sunday,” and the children, who likely hadn’t seen their mothers for some time, would bring their mums flowers and cakes as gifts.

While this tradition died out as church attendance dropped, Mothering Sunday remained the fourth Sunday of Lent in the UK. During World War II, the influence of American servicemen and women in the UK revived interest in the day.

Today in the UK, Mothering Sunday is just as commonly known as “Mother’s Day” and it’s celebrated the same way as in the States with the usual cards, flowers, chocolates and dining out.

In the U.S.


The Mother’s Day tradition in the United States started much later than in the UK. The American celebration is all thanks to one dedicated daughter — a West Virginian woman called Anna Jarvis.

Jarvis’ mother, Ann Jarvis, was a social activist and the founder of Mothers’ Day Work Clubs. She was passionate about the idea of encouraging and celebrating motherhood and is quoted as once stating: “I hope and pray that someone, sometime, will found a memorial mothers day commemorating her for the matchless service she renders to humanity in every field of life. She is entitled to it.”

When Ann Jarvis died, Anna Jarvis decided to make her mother’s wish a reality. Jarvis organized a memorial service for her, and all mothers, in her home town of Grafton, West Virginia. Now recognized as the first official observance of Mother’s Day, the ceremony took place on May 10, 1908.

The Mother’s Day concept grew in popularity and was observed in an increasing number of states as the years went on. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson declared the second Sunday in May would formally became the national holiday of “Mother’s Day.”

Read more: Mother’s Day vs. Mothering Sunday: Do you know the difference?

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