8 Traditional Ways of Celebrating Mother's Day 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.

Almost every country worldwide has a day dedicated to mothers, and they're scattered throughout the year. However you and your family celebrate moms, the cultural differences are 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 cultural significance.

To prepare for Mother's Day, we looked at how moms are honored worldwide. We are often so familiar with our holidays that it can be easy to assume everyone else's is similar. However, countries around the globe have unique traditions and fascinating histories. You might even want to borrow a few of these ideas for your Mother's Day plans.

Many of these traditions can be easily adapted for virtual celebrations if you can't be together in person. For example, plan a virtual cooking date for the two of you rather than going out to lunch together, mail your cards and gifts, or simply call mom to tell her how much you appreciate her.

Woman wearing jean jacket holding small girl with Mother's Day card
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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 to honor 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. Then, in 1920, Hallmark began selling Mother's Day cards, and the tradition of showering mom with gifts, cards, and quality time was born.

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 where 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.

Mother’s Day in France

French Mother's Day, also known as Fête des Mères, comes from a historical celebration of women's equality. Before 1904, men with large families—4 or more children—were given a special honor from the government 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 equal heads of the family for the first time. By 1920, the French government declared a national holiday to celebrate mothers and women's equality. Fête des Mères 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 festivities include a large meal and small gifts.

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 Dia de las Madres cards and gifts are customary, along with lunch or dinner at a restaurant so mom doesn't have to cook.

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, Bolivia 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, it is custom for French Canadian men to present their mothers and wives with a rose.

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 across the globe and was officially declared an international holiday by the United Nations in 1975. Other countries have also adopted this tradition; Chile, Croatia, Romania, Cameroon, Bosnia, and Herzegovina celebrate the two holidays together.

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