Mother’s Day is a celebration that has spread throughout the world. It is the day dedicated to honoring the beloved mother figure, motherhood, and the social influence of mothers.
Though Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday of May in the United States, Italy, Switzerland, Croatia and Malta, most countries honor mothers in March. In San Marino, it is always celebrated on March 15, while Albania celebrates on March 8 and Slovenia on March 25.
There are several ancient celebrations that in some way can be compared to our present-day Mother’s Day, but they are not related to the celebration as we know it.
Mother’s Day, as we know it today, actually had beginnings in 1872, when Julia Ward Howe proposed the idea to celebrate a day of peace sometime in May. However, it was a native Philadelphian by the name of Ana Jarvis who, in 1907, wanting to honor the memory of her mother, asked her parish in Grafton, W.Va., to celebrate this “day of peace” on the anniversary of her mother’s death—which, that year, fell on the second Sunday of May.
Jarvis then realized that this celebration should be a day dedicated to all mothers. The next year, on the second Sunday of May, her native birthplace of Philadelphia locally recognized and celebrated the first Mother’s Day in America. The custom soon drew national attention and, by 1911, had begun to be celebrated “unofficially” around the U.S. Jarvis decided to start a petition and, after much lobbying, was successful in having it declared an official American holiday in late 1914 by President Woodrow Wilson. Jarvis died in 1948 in West Chester, Pa.
In modern-day Italy, the first Mother’s Day dates back to 1956. That year, Raul Zaccari, senator and mayor of Bordighera, in collaboration with Giacomo Pallanca, president of the town’s annual Flower Fair and owner of an Ornamental Plant Company in Bordighera-Vallecrosia, took the initiative to celebrate Mother’s Day in Bordighera on the second Sunday in May. That morning, the townspeople gathered at the Teatro Zeni for a commemoration, then held an afternoon festival at the Palazzo del Parco.
The second goes back to 1957, when Don Othello Migliosi, pastor of Tordibetto of Assisi in Umbria, because of his religious values, got the idea to celebrate la mamma (mother). He even organized an interdenominational core of supporters. At a groundbreaking meeting, through dialogue between these various cultures and religions, his dream came to fruition. It was even “blessed” by the Vatican newspaper. Since then, every second Sunday in May, the parish of Tordibetto officially celebrates the festival with important religious and cultural events.
On Dec. 18, 1958, Zaccari—along with Sens. Bellisario, Baldini, Restagno, Piasenti, Benedetti and Zannini—presented to the Italian Senate a bill tending to secure the creation of Mother’s Day as a national holiday. The initiative sparked a debate in the Senate that continued even into the first 1959 Senate session. Some senators thought it inappropriate that such intimate maternal feelings be subject to compliance with the law and feared that the celebration of the feast could result in a “Vanity Fair.” It eventually made its way through the political process, and May 8 became the official date of Mother’s Day in Italy.
Finally, in 2000, the second Sunday in May was declared the official day for the nationwide Mother’s Day commemoration. On this occasion, mothers are feted and given gifts. For school-aged children, it’s traditional to create a handmade greeting card to bring home to their mothers.
Jean-Paul Malfatti, a young aspiring Italian-American poet, said it all in the following poem, which he simply entitled “Mamma.”
By Jean-Paul Malfatti
Una piccola parola di solo cinque lettere
che ci porta a pensare a tante cose belle;
una semplice parola che ci scalda l’anima,
facendoci sentire in armonia con il mondo;
una parola che da sola esprime tanto amore
e che ci porta a sorridere anche dei guai;
una parolina magica che ci da più sicurezza,
facendoci vedere il mondo con più ottimismo;
una parola di luce che ci illumina il buio
e che ci porta a capire cos’è il vero amore;
una parola piena di significati e di valori
che ci fa credere nel miracolo della vita.
It is a simple five-letter word, which brings to mind many happy things;
A simple word that warms our souls, and gives the feeling of being in harmony with the world;
A word that by itself expresses so much love and makes us smile even in hard times;
A little magic word that gives us a sense of security, and makes us see the world a little better;
A word that gives light into darkness and that brings us an understanding of true love;
A word full of meaning and valor that makes us believe in the miracle of life.