Once a year, since 1914, the American people have come together in celebration of the women who gave them life - mothers.
Today, the holiday is traditionally celebrated by presenting mothers with flowers, cards, candy and many other types of gifts. But, it wasn't always that way, rather in the early years of the celebration, which was founded by Anna Jarvis, people would wear a white carnation as a badge and visit their mother or attend a church service. The holiday is celebrated worldwide in various ways, on different dates and under many names, but honoring one's mother is a common theme throughout. In the U.S., the second Sunday in May is designated as Mother's Day by Congress.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2010, 81 percent of women had become mothers by age 40 to 44, which has decreased since 1976 when 90 percent of women in that age group had given birth. So, with the majority of women in the U.S. being mothers, a holiday held in their honor isn't without reason. And, since 4.1 million women between the ages of 15 and 50 gave birth in the past 12 months, there is an abundance of new mothers to be celebrated.
Ellen Litwicki, a history professor at SUNY Fredonia who holds a Ph.D. from University of Virginia, teaches courses on American cultural history, and has previously taught courses on holidays and American cultures as well as U.S. consumer culture. She is also the author of "America's Public Holidays, 1865-1920," and various articles on the subject.
According to Litwicki, although her book doesn't focus on Mother's Day as it is not a public holiday, but rather a national one, she has read works on the holiday as well as taught courses at SUNY Fredonia pertaining to the celebration of American holidays. Litwicki looks at cultural rituals in her work, and right now she is focusing on gift giving, she said.
"One of the things I talk about with Mother's Day is the founding of it, but then I also talk about how it was commercialized," said Litwicki. "The founder (Anna Jarvis) was very upset about it being commercialized. But, I think it's perfectly good in the spirit of Anna Jarvis to honor one's mother in terms of buying into the larger cultural implications that motherhood is the role that all women should aspire to. In terms of it being a family holiday, I think it's a great thing to honor your parents at least once a year with a holiday."
The commercialization of the holiday becomes apparent when considering the businesses that profit the most, such as floral establishments, in which there were 16,182 nationwide in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The floral business employs 70,575 men and women in floral shops across the nation who will be especially busy preparing, selling and delivering floral arrangements for Mother's Day. Greeting card companies also benefit from the celebration, employing 10,258 people at the 103 greeting-card publishing establishments in 2010. The 23,739 jewelry stores and14,654 cosmetics, beauty supplies and perfume stores will also be ready for a high-grossing day of sales.
Some who celebrate the holiday may opt to instead of spend money on their mother, will give her a phone call or write a letter. And, since 89.7 percent of children lived with their biological mothers in 2012, 10.3 million of whom were single mothers and 62.1 percent of who were part of the labor force, a personal touch to a gift might not be a bad move.
For Litwicki, Mother's Day was always an opportunity to connect with her mother, who she would call or send a card to when she couldn't see her.
"For me it was a time to talk to my mother, connect with my mother and to thank my mother for whats he has done," said Litwicki.