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10 Mother’s Day traditions around the world

Learn how people celebrate Mother's Day around the world, and find new ways to honor the moms and mother figures in your life.

10 Mother’s Day traditions around the world

Happy Mother’s Day. Feliz Dia de las Madres. Furaha Ya Mama Siku. It doesn’t matter how you say it, the sentiment is the same: Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. We love you. Thank you. You are the center of our family, and for that, we are grateful.

Moms are celebrated in many countries on different dates and in different ways. While Mother’s Day traditions and customs vary, everyone knows how important it is to honor moms for everything they do all year long.

Wondering what to do this Mother’s Day? Christine Gross-Loh, a journalist and author of “Parenting Without Borders: Surprising Lessons Parents Around the World Can Teach Us,” and Mei-Ling Hopgood, a journalist and author of “How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm,” suggest finding inspiration from the many ways families celebrate Mother’s Day around the world. Here are fun Mother’s Day traditions in 10 other countries.

What countries celebrate Mother’s Day?

Mother’s Day is celebrated in more than 90 countries worldwide, but not every country celebrates on the same day. In the U.S. and Canada, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in May. In the UK, Japan and many other countries, the celebration takes place in May.

The day on which a country celebrates Mother’s Day depends on its unique history and the date the holiday was declared. Festivals and holidays celebrating mothers date back to ancient times, according to Encyclopedia Brittanica.

Mother’s Day traditions around the world

1. Mother’s Day in the United Kingdom

In the UK, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent and is also called Mothering Sunday. During medieval times, poor families often sent their children – most often their daughters – to work as domestic servants or apprentices to rich families. The children’s rare day off was traditionally granted during the Lenten season, so they could worship the Virgin Mary and visit their homes and families. On this day, children would often pick flowers to give to their mothers and bake special cakes called Mothering Cakes or Simnel Cakes (the holiday even used to be known as Refreshment Sunday because strict Lent fasting rules were put aside for the holiday).

Today, Mother’s Day in the UK is celebrated in the same way as it is in America, with flowers, cards, gifts and family meals.

2. Dia das Mães: Mother’s Day in Brazil

“In Brazil, Mother’s Day is one of the most commercial holidays celebrated, second only to Christmas,” says Gross-Loh.

Brazil commemorates this special day – known locally as Dia das Mães – on the second Sunday in May. The day includes special children’s performances and church gatherings, which often culminate in large, multi-generational barbecues, Gross-Loh adds.

3. Muttertag: Mother’s Day in Germany

Muttertag takes place on the second Sunday in May (unless it falls on Pentecost, in which case it occurs on the first Sunday of the month). In Germany, the giving of Mother’s Day cards is extremely popular.

During WWII, Mother’s Day traditions took on political significance as the day to acknowledge women for producing children for the Vaterland, or Fatherland. Medals were awarded in gold, silver or bronze, based upon how many children were in the household. After the war, Mother’s Day assumed a softer feel, with the giving of gifts, cards and flowers, as well as festive meals earmarking the day.

4. Mother’s Day in Japan

The American-born Gross-Loh spent five years raising her own children in Japan, where Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in May and is symbolized by beautiful carnations. Carnations represent the gentle strength of mothers, who are revered in Japanese culture.

“Mother’s Day [in Japan] is a day of pampering for moms — kids help take over the household chores, have a special family meal… and give their mothers red carnations or roses and cards.”

— Christine Gross-Loh, journalist and author

“Children draw pictures of their mothers in school and sometimes enter them in art contests,” says Gross-Loh. “Like in most other countries, Mother’s Day is a day of pampering for moms — kids help take over the household chores, have a special family meal, like sushi or eggs, and give their mothers red carnations or roses and cards.”

5. Mother’s Day in Australia

Another country which relies heavily on the giving of carnations and other flowers is Australia, where Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in May. Chrysanthemums are also a very popular floral choice, because mothers in Australia are called “Mum.” Aunts and grandmothers are also acknowledged with gifts on Mother’s Day.

“In Australia, lots of service events are held around the holiday, with many organizations holding events to help raise money for women’s causes,” says Gross-Loh.

6. Mother’s Day and Martes de Challa in Peru

“The concept of a commercialized Mother’s Day is a Western evolution, but many cultures worldwide do things to celebrate their mothers in small and large ways from rituals to special treatments at special times, including pregnancy or childbirth,” says Hopgood. Peru is no exception to this rule, where Mother’s Day is celebrated the second Sunday of May with gifts, chocolates and joyous family meals. In Peru, children often give their moms handmade items, which are reciprocated with gifts from them, in turn.

“The concept of a commercialized Mother’s Day is a Western evolution, but many cultures worldwide do things to celebrate their mothers in small and large ways.”

– Mei-Ling Hopgood, journalist and author

In a separate celebration, Peru’s indigenous Andean population also celebrates the gifts of Mother Earth, or Pachamama, in early August, says Hopgood. Pachamama is an ancient mythological goddess beloved by many indigenous Andean populations. Mythology cites Pachamama as the cause of earthquakes and bringer of fertility. Her special worship day is called Martes de Challa.

7. Fete des Meres: Mother’s Day in France

Fete des Meres takes place in late May or early June, based upon Pentecost. It didn’t become an official day of celebration until 1950, but was originally declared a holiday by Napoleon. On this day, just like in the United States, moms are supposed to relax, relying on their children to cater to their needs and do the chores. Gifts are given and sometimes short, original poems are recited. A large, celebratory meal ends this relaxing, enjoyable day.

8. Mother’s Day during Antrosht in Ethiopia

Mother’s Day is celebrated at the end of the fall rainy season, as part of the three-day Antrosht festival, dedicated to moms. When the weather clears up and the skies empty of rain, family members come home to celebrate with a large feast. Daughters traditionally bring vegetables, butter, spices and cheese, while the sons bring meat of various types, including lamb or bull. These will be included in a traditional hash recipe. Singing and dancing is shared by all family members.

9. Materice: Mother’s Day in Serbia

Another country which needs three days to fully acknowledge their mothers and the spirit of family is Serbia. There, Mother’s Day takes place in December and is part of a series of holidays including Children’s Day and Father’s Day. All three holidays take place on consecutive Sundays and require lots of rope!

On Children’s Day, children are playfully tied up and must agree to behave before they are unbound. On Mother’s Day, it is the mom’s turn to be tied up, where she will remain until she supplies yummy treats and small gifts to her children. Finally, it is father’s turn. The dads are tied up with rope until they give their families Christmas gifts. At that point, everybody feasts!

According to one Serbian Orthodox Church, tying is a custom that represents a symbolic connection between the past, the present and the different generations. The untying is accompanied by gifts to represent devotion and love.

10. Mother’s Day in India

In culturally diverse India, a westernized version of Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in May, when Indians reflect upon the importance of mothers in their lives and the sacrifices they have made.

However, mothers are celebrated differently by different cultures within India. Hindus in India celebrate the goddess Durga, or Divine Mother, during a 10-day festival called Durga Puja in October. Durga Puja celebrates the triumph of good over evil and is earmarked by gifts given to friends and family, as well as feasts and celebrations.

The celebrations may vary, but the emotion and love that ties families together is the same the world over. Mother’s Day in different countries, no matter how or when it is celebrated, simply serves as a reminder of all that mothers do for their families every single day – and the honor they deserve because of it.