Retailers estimate that 96 percent of the American population usually participates in celebrating Mother's Day each year. As the second-highest, gift-giving holiday, this figure translates into more than $16 billion spent on flowers, cards, phone calls, gifts and meals at fine restaurants. While the United States has highly commercialized Mother's Day, at least 70 other countries of the world also take time out to recognize and appreciate mothers and their invaluable role in their families and society. In France, cakes resembling flowers are given as gifts. Red carnations, scarves and handbags are popular in Japan. Mexicans start the day by serenading their mothers and preparing a huge brunch. In the United Kingdom, tradition requires giving a Simnel cake and purple violets.
It seems that mothers have always been valued and revered to some extent. During the days of the ancient Egyptians, red roses were associated with the goddess Isis, Mother of the Pharaohs. The Romans celebrated Cybele or Rhea, Mother of the Gods. Early Christians honored their Mother Church and their mothers at the same time. In the U.S., it was Julia Ward Howe, writer of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," who first suggested calling mothers together to protect their sons from the ravages of wars. Anna Reeves Jarvis continued her efforts, but it was her daughter, Anna M. Reeves, who would advocate celebrating all mothers as she wished to honor her own.
In 1908, at the first official Mother's Day celebration at Andrew's Methodist Church in West Virginia, 407 attendees were presented with white carnations, Anna R. Jarvis's favorite flowers. Pink and red carnations would later be associated with mothers who were still living, and the white would be reserved for those who had deceased. In 1914, the second Sunday in May was recognized by President Woodrow Wilson as the official date for Mother's Day.
Although the commercialization of this special day deeply frustrated and saddened its founder, Americans continue to use the holiday to lavish attention on the important mother-figures in their lives. Single flowers and colorful bouquets are always the right gift. Red roses continue to be a symbol of deep love and affection. Pink roses speak to grace, elegance and appreciation, and yellow roses are all about friendship and joy.
Carnations have also remained a popular but less-expensive choice. Many churches continue to pass them out to the women in their congregations on this designated Sunday. Tradition says that pink carnations sprang up from the ground on which the Virgin Mary's tears dripped as she mourned the death of her Son. For that reason, they speak of eternal love.
Other popular choices include purple lilacs, which are reminders of the love between a mother and her child; white-blue irises, a tribute to the Mother of Jesus and the affection that exists in the mother-child relationship; and exotic orchids of all colors to represent refinement and beauty.
However, many families veer away from the traditional choices to customize their gift for the special woman in their lives. They may choose to incorporate her favorite flowers in a non-traditional arrangement. For example, if she loves yellow they may want daffodils and sunflowers added. Blue hydrangeas, red peonies and pink Gerber daisies are also popular requests.
Some families choose to order a blooming plant or shrub that can be added to the garden later and provide years of enjoyment. Miniature rose bushes in reds, yellows, pinks, and whites are frequent choices. Whatever your decide, order your flowers with your mother in mind. She will see your heart in your gift and love you for thinking of her in such a personal way.