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Is Mother's Day a Christian Holiday?
It Couldn't Be More So ...

Many people see Mother's Day as a secular holiday, designed by the greeting card industry, promoted by restaurants, beloved by florists. Some clergy agree, objecting to the commercialism of the holiday. Does Mother's Day have religious meaning? If so what is it? Just consider the witness of its founder, Anna Jarvis.

American consumers typically spend about $10 billion each year on Mother's Day for greeting cards, flowers, restaurant meals, and other presents for mom. But the numbers don't tell the whole story, by a long shot.

The religious and deeply Christian origins of Mother's Day reflect the faith of the woman credited as its founder, Anna Jarvis.

The Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia, is called "the Mothers Day Church" because Anna Jarvis was active there; her former home in Grafton is a national landmark. Anna Jarvis was inspired by HER mother, Anna Reeves Jarvis who organized "Mothers' Work Day Clubs" in the 1850's in the area. The clubs provided medicines for the poor, inspected milk for children, provided nursing care for the sick, and shelters for children with tuberculosis.

When the Civil War broke out she called together several of her clubs and asked them to make a pledge that friendship and good will would not be a casualty of the war. In a remarkable display of courage and compassion the women nursed soldiers from both sides and saved many lives.

A peacemaker who healed the wounds of war

As if that weren't enough, Anna Reeves Jarvis became a genuine peace maker after the war. The wounds and animosity between families who fought on either side were deep. So Anna organized "Mothers' Friendship Days" to bring together families across the Mason Dixon line.

Anna Jarvis was born in 1850 and was an impressionable child and teenager when her mother was at the peak of her courageous work. So in 1907, two years after her mother's death, she organized the first "mothers' day" in Grafton so that the work of peacemaking and the war against poverty which her mother waged would not be forgotten.

If Mother's Day has become too commercial, Anna Jarvis would have been the first to object, indeed, she did protest the profiteering that had become part of Mother's Day even during her lifetime. The remedy for the excesses of this popular holiday, is not to ignore them, but to lift up the story of its founder, and her own mother, Anna Reeves Jarvis, both of whom exemplified the very best that the Christian faith has to offer.

The facts on holiday spending

Mother's Day rivals Easter in terms of total holiday spending. In the US cosumers spend roughly $10 billion on each of these holidays. Valentine's Day edges out both at about $13 billion. But, of course, nothing compares with Christmas, at $200 billion or more.

More on holiday spending ... How Much Is Enough?

For a fuller discussion of Mother's Day, its founders, and its deep Christian significance, see: No Greater Love, A Mother's Day Meditation.

And to help you celebrate the day in all its dimensions:

Mother's Day Prayers ... poetry, readings and thoughtss for the day.

The Date and Meaning of Mother's Day

Books About Mother's Day

Charles Henderson

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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and author of Faith, Science and the Future, published in 1994 by CrossCurrents Press. He is also the author of God and Science (John Knox / Westminster, 1986) which he is now rewriting to incorporate more recent developments in the conversation taking place between scientists and theologians. He has also written widely for such publications as The New York Times, The Nation, Commonweal, The Christian Century and others.

For further information about Charles Henderson.