To prepare for Mother's Day, we took a look at how the holiday is celebrated around the world. Learn how moms are celebrated in eight different countries and find out how you can incorporate these customs into your own Mother's Day traditions.

By Emily VanSchmus
May 01, 2019

Almost every country around the world has a day specifically dedicated to mothers, and they’re all scattered throughout the year. Every year when spring rolls around, I have a panic moment that I’ve forgotten Mother’s Day—with several family members living in the United Kingdom, I usually see posts about Mother’s Day about a month before we celebrate it in here the United States. I'm always relieved that I still have time to buy my mom a gift, but the cultural difference is always a good reminder that although they can be similar, most Mother’s Day holidays around the world were born out of different historical events and each has its own cultural significance.

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We are often so familiar with our own holidays that it can be easy to assume everyone celebrates the same way. I took a look at a few countries around the globe that all have unique traditions and fascinating histories. I might even borrow a few of these ideas for my own Mother’s Day plans! Make the day extra special for your mom by researching your family’s ancestry and incorporating a few of their practices into her special day.

Image courtesy of Getty.

Mother’s Day in The United States

The first American Mother’s Day was celebrated in 1908, when a woman named Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her late mother. Jarvis was a peace activist and a Civil War medic who wanted to create a day specifically dedicated to moms—the person she said does more to care for us than anyone else. By 1914, the occasion had gained national popularity and President Woodrow Wilson declared that the second Sunday in May would become a national holiday. In 1920, Hallmark began selling Mother’s Day cards and the tradition of showering mom with gifts, cards, and quality time was born.

Related: Things Every Mom and Daughter Should Do Together at Least Once

Mother’s Day in The United Kingdom

The Mother’s Day tradition in the United Kingdom began as a church holiday in the 1500s, known as Mothering Sunday. On the fourth Sunday of Lent, people would take the day off work and return to the church in which they were baptized—known as their “mother church”—to spend the day gathering with their family. Since then, the holiday has become less religious and turned into a celebration with flowers, gifts, or a Mother’s Day brunch.

Mother’s Day in Peru

In Peru, the week leading up to Mother’s Day—known as Dia de la Madre—involves many large meals, celebrations and performances to honor the mothers in each community. While families around the world celebrate the actual holiday by taking mom to brunch or spending the day with her at home, families in Peru spend the day at the cemetery. On the second Sunday in May, families gather around the graves of female relatives and spend the day cleaning and decorating to honor them.

Related: 19 Mother’s Day Traditions to Start This Year

Mother’s Day in France

The French Mother’s Day, also known as Fête des Mères, comes from a historical celebration of women’s equality. Prior to 1904, men with large families—4 or more children—were given a special honor from the government, in order to encourage families to have more children at the height of a low birth rate epidemic. In 1904, women were made eligible for this honor and recognized as an equal head of the family for the first time. By 1920, the French government declared a national holiday to celebrate mothers and women’s equality. The holiday is celebrated on the last Sunday in May unless Pentecost falls on that day—in that case, it is celebrated the following Sunday. Traditionally, the day is celebrated with a large meal and small gifts.

Related: Fabulous French Desserts to Make for Mom

Mother’s Day in Mexico

Mothers play one of the most important roles in Mexican culture, and Dia de las Madres reflects the teachings and sacrifices of these women. Traditionally, children start the day of May 10 by getting up early and playing or performing music to wake their mother. It is also traditional for children to put on a skit for their mothers at some point during the day. After these performances, homemade Mother's Day cards and gifts are customary, along with lunch or dinner out to a restaurant so mom doesn’t have to cook.

Related: 50+ DIY Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

Mother’s Day in Bolivia

The Mother’s Day tradition in Bolivia has significant historical ties that date back to the 1800s. On May 27, 1812, a group of Bolivian women took up arms against the Spanish Army in an attempt to win freedom for their country. Since then, the country has celebrated women and mothers on May 27 in remembrance of those who gave their lives for their country’s freedom. It was declared an official holiday in 1927; children traditionally put on a program for their mothers and present them with cake rather than flowers.

Mother’s Day in Canada

The Canadian practice of Mother’s Day is quite similar to the holiday celebrated in the United States. Carnations are the traditional flower and a popular gift. Some Canadians even celebrate by wearing carnation brooches. In Quebec specifically, it is custom for the French Canadian men to present their mothers and wives with a rose.

Related: 27 First Mother’s Day Gifts Every New Mom Needs

Mother’s Day in Bulgaria

In Bulgaria, Mother’s Day is incorporated into the country’s International Women’s Day celebrations. The occasion was first celebrated in 1910 to honor women around the world and was officially declared an international holiday by the United Nations in 1975. Other countries have adopted this tradition as well; Chile, Croatia, Romania, Cameroon, Bosnia, and Herzegovina all celebrate the two together. 

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