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EDITORIAL: Bring Mother’s Day back to its roots

We asked a small number of folks on the street this week about what makes the best Mother’s Day gift. The answers we heard were varied (view this week's 'On the street'), and that speaks to how unique the day is. Everyone might have a mother, but each mother is different.

So what will you do for yours this year?

We submit this Mother’s Day is among the most important of annual holidays, and perhaps also one of the easiest to prepare for. This year, when making your Mother’s Day plans, remember the wishes of the founder of what has become a marketing and sales juggernaut.

While maternity has been celebrated in some shape or form for centuries, the modern and American institution of Mother’s Day was not established until the early 20th century, and it was a whirlwind adoption, to boot.

Anna Jarvis organized a small memorial service for her mother in West Virginia in 1907, and through her efforts it grew to an official event in the next year. By 1909, Mother’s Day was reported by The New York Times as being celebrated in the Big Apple. The paper reported events largely centered around sermons given on the subject of motherhood, and flowers played a prominent role – especially the carnation. Nearly every florist in town sold out of its stock on Saturday night, according to the report.

A campaign headed by Jarvis followed for the official establishment of the holiday. In 1910, West Virginia held the first official holiday, and other states followed suit in the coming years. In 1914, Congress passed a law designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. Other countries jumped on board, too.

And so the holiday we all know came to be in the span of a few years. And, some would say, it became diluted and commercialized almost as quickly. Jarvis herself became something of a crusader against the very holiday she had spearheaded as a cottage industry of prefabricated cards and dinner packages sprang up. She even threatened to sue over a large Mother’s Day celebration in New York planned for 1923. The event was called off.

To Jarvis, Mother’s Day was best recognized by a carnation and a sincere letter. And in the end, is something from the heart not what best exemplifies our relationships with our mothers?

You don’t have to call off your dinner plans, but this year take a page from the founder of Mother’s Day, and take up the quill. You’ll be glad you did.

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