The way we celebrate Mother’s Day in Australia (which is on 12 May this year, by the way) is pretty stock standard. It falls on the second Sunday of each May and usually involves buying mum a gift or some flowers and a card, and taking her out for a nice meal. Traditions vary around the world, with interesting origins and meanings behind Mother’s Day in different countries.
The date of Mother’s Day in Nepal is determined by the Nepali calendar. Every year, it falls on the last day of the dark fortnight in the month of Baishakh, which is around April – May. The day, called Aamako Mukh Herne Din (‘the day to see the mother’s face’), can be traced back to a tale in which thousands of years ago, a young shepherd looked into a pond and saw his dead mother’s face reflected back at him. The image of the shepherd’s mother told him not to cry, as tears streamed down his face from happiness, and it promised to appear on the same day at the same location every year – the new moon of Baishakh.
Families gather together on Aamako Mukh Herne Din, honouring mums with gifts and offering a puja (prayer ritual) to those who have passed away.
Mother’s Day, or Hari Ibu, is celebrated on 22 December in Indonesia. The date is the anniversary of the opening day of the first Indonesian Women Congress in 1928, which was held in order to improve women’s rights across education and marriage.
Gifts and flowers are part of Hari Ibu today, but the celebrations also involve surprise parties, cooking competitions and kebaya wearing competitions.
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Mother’s Day, or Fête des Mères, in France is celebrated on the last Sunday of May. This is unless the religious day of Pentecost falls then, in which case Mother’s Day is celebrated on the first Sunday of June.
Historically, the celebration began in the late 19th century as a way to increase the population. Mothers of big families received an award called the Haut Mérit Maternal (High Maternal Merit). Throughout the First World War, French soldiers returning home brought back with them Americanised Mother’s Day traditions such as greeting cards and postcards.
Mother’s Day in France remained a tool to encourage population growth until the 1950s when the patriotic connotations started to drop off and the holiday became more commercialised. Despite this, the tradition of an award being granted to mothers continues to this day, but it’s now evolved into the Médaille de la Famille Française (Medal of the French Family) and can be given to anyone who’s raised several children ‘with dignity’.
Like in Australia, Fête des Mères in France today is celebrated with flowers, cards, gifts and shared meals.
The celebration of Mother’s Day in Brazil (Dia das Mães) has religious roots, initially promoted by Associação Cristå de Moços de Porto Alegre (Young Men’s Christian Association of Porto Alegre) in 1918. In 1932, the president at the time, Getúlio Vargas, officially made the date the second Sunday of May – and it remains so today.
The way that Dia das Mães is celebrated in Brazil these days is with gifts, flowers and cards. There is also a tradition of kids preparing special performances at school to show their mums too.
Mother’s Day in Ethiopia is a three-day affair. It comes at the end of the rainy season – a celebration in and of itself – and families enjoy a feast called ‘Antrosht’ together. Children are in charge of bringing the ingredients for the traditional hash recipe that’s part of the feast; girls are to bring butter, cheese, vegetables and spices, while boys bring bull or lamb. The feast is followed by singing and dancing.