Celebrations of Mothers and Motherhood

Sculpture of four Mother Goddesses of Roman Britain

Four Mother Goddesses of Roman Britain.Museum of London/Heritage Images/Getty Images


People in many ancient cultures celebrated holidays honoring motherhood, personified as a goddess. Here are just a few of those:

  • Ancient Greeks celebrated a holiday in honor of Rhea, the mother of the gods.
  • Ancient Romans celebrated a holiday in honor of Cybele, a mother goddess, March 22-25 – the celebrations were notorious enough that followers of Cybele were banished from Rome.
  • In the British Isles and Celtic Europe, the goddess Brigid, and later her successor St. Brigid, were honored with a spring Mother’s Day, connected with the first milk of the ewes.


Mothering Sunday in Britain

Drawing of The Mother's Prayer. (Sculpture), By W.C. Marshall, R.A.
The Mother’s Prayer. (Sculpture), By W.C. Marshall, R.A.Liszt Collection/Heritage Images/Getty Images

 Mothering Sunday was celebrated in Britain beginning in the 17th century

  • It was honored on the fourth Sunday in Lent.
  • It began as a day when apprentices and servants could return home for the day to visit their mothers.
  • They often brought a gift with them, often a “mothering cake” — a kind of fruitcake or fruit-filled pastry known as simnels.
  • Furmety, a sweetened boiled cereal dish, was often served at the family dinner during Mothering Sunday celebrations.
  • By the 19th century, the holiday had almost completely died out.
  • Mother’s Day in Britain—or Mothering Sunday—came to be celebrated again after World War II, when American servicemen brought the custom and commercial enterprises used it as an occasion for sales, etc.


Mother’s Day Statistics

Mother with infant
Kelvin Murray/Stone/Getty Images

• In the United States, there are about 82.5 million mothers. (source: US Census Bureau)

• About 96% of American consumers take part in some way in Mother’s Day (source: Hallmark)

• Mother’s Day is widely reported as the peak day of the year for long distance telephone calls.

• There are more than 23,000 florists in the United States with a total of more than 125,000 employees. Colombia is the leading foreign supplier of cut flowers and fresh flower buds to the US. California produces two-thirds of domestic production of cut flowers. (source: US Census Bureau)

• Mother’s Day is the busiest day of the year for many restaurants.

• Retailers report that Mother’s Day is the second highest gift-giving holiday in the United States (Christmas is the highest).

• Most popular month for having babies in the U.S. is August, and the most popular weekday is Tuesday. (source: US Census Bureau)

• About twice as many young women were childfree in the year 2000 as in the 1950s (source: Ralph Fevre, The Guardian, Manchester, March 26, 2001)

• In the US, 82% of women ages 40-44 are mothers. This compares to 90% in 1976. (source: US Census Bureau)

• In Utah and Alaska, women on the average will have three children before the end of their childbearing years. Overall, the average in the United States is two. (source: US Census Bureau)

• In 2002, 55% of American women with infant children were in the workforce, compared to 31% in 1976, and down from 59% in 1998. In 2002, there were 5.4 million stay-at-home mothers in the US. (source: US Census Bureau)

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Author: Dennis Hickey

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