Mother’s Day Around the World: Why is it Celebrated on Different Dates?

Mother's Day

Have you ever thought about why we celebrate Mother’s Day? It’s a global celebration honoring motherhood, but how did it start? And what are some of the special traditions and ways to celebrate from around the world that might add special meaning to our own celebrations? From variations in celebration dates to unique traditions, this day holds different meanings across cultures. In this article, we’ll let you know all about the origins of Mother’s Day, reasons for its varying dates, and explore how it’s celebrated in different parts of the world.

The Origin of Mother’s Day: Anna Jarvis

In the United States, Mother’s Day traces back to the efforts of Anna Jarvis of West Virginia. Her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, was a social activist and founder of Mothers’ Day Work Clubs, a Methodist Episcopal church-run social service organization that helped local women learn to properly care for their children and keep them healthy. She also taught Sunday school, and it was from a prayer she said in 1876 that her daughter was inspired to create a day to honor mothers in general. The simple prayer was “I hope and pray that someone, sometime, will found a memorial mothers day commemorating her for the matchless service she renders to humanity in every field of life. She is entitled to it.”

When her mother passed away in 1905, Anna Jarvis began working on her idea. In 1908 their church in West Virginia held the very first Mother’s Day. Anna began speaking around the nation, advocating for the adoption of a day honoring mothers. Her tireless efforts paid off when many more groups began celebrating and finally in President Woodrow Wilson’s proclamation in 1914, officially designating the second Sunday in May as a national holiday for Mother’s Day. Through Jarvis’s determination to make her mother’s vision a reality, Mother’s Day became a cherished tradition, celebrated annually now for more than 100 years to honor the invaluable contributions of mothers everywhere.

The concept gradually spread globally, adapting to diverse cultural contexts and, while the celebrations may sometimes be on different dates, they all honor the women who brought us into the world, those who nurtured our growth or acted in place of our mother for whatever reason.

Why Is Mother’s Day Celebrated on Different Dates Worldwide?

If you’ve ever wondered about why some countries celebrate Mother’s Day on different dates than the United States, cultural and religious factors significantly influence the dates of Mother’s Day celebrations. For instance, in the UK, Mothering Sunday, has its roots in the Christian celebration of Lent and is observed on the Sunday three weeks before Easter Sunday. This date is the traditional date where children working away from home in the Middle Ages were allowed to go home to visit their mother, the church, in their home parish.

In other countries, historical events and national heroes related to motherhood also play a role in setting dates. For example, countries like Russia, Vietnam and Afghanistan celebrate it on International Women’s Day, March 8. In France, Napoleon began a Mother’s Day tradition, celebrating women with large families. The celebration went dormant there until after WWI when it was revived. The last Sunday in May was selected in 1941 and it has been celebrated at that time ever since. In Bolivia, it is celebrated on May 27, to coincide with a famous battle in the Bolivian war of Independence in 1812, where women fought to defend their children. In Nepal and other areas with a large Hindu population, it is celebrated in conjunction with a holy pilgrimage in Late April, early May.

How Mother’s Day Is Celebrated Around the World

North America:

In the United States and Canada, Mother’s Day typically involves traditional gifts of cards, flowers, breakfast or brunch, and family gatherings. It is common to cook a meal or take your mother out to a restaurant and spare her the usual chores that she completes daily. Many small children craft handmade cards in school and present them to their mothers on their special day.


The UK celebrates Mothering Sunday with unique traditions, including the Royal Family’s involvement, but also typical celebrations involving cards, flowers, and chocolates. Norway emphasizes breakfast in bed and handmade gifts to honor mothers.


In Japan and Thailand, Mother’s Day holds deep cultural significance, with rituals honoring maternal figures. In Japan, gifts of red carnations, symbolizing purity and egg dishes are highlighted as gifts. In Thailand, it is celebrated August 12, the birthday of the Queen Mother Sirikit, and features a ceremony where mothers attend their children’s school and are given cards and are honored in a special ceremony by their children.

Middle East:

Most countries including UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Comoros, Djibouti, Libya, and Mauritania follow the lead of Egypt and celebrate Mother’s Day on March 21 to coincide with the Spring Equinox. In Israel, mothers are honored on Yom HaMishpacha “Family Day” and are not expected to have any chores that day. Children who are old enough are to take up these duties in thank you to their parents.

Latin America:

Mexico commemorates Mother’s Day as a national holiday imported from the U.S. in 1922, it’s the most-celebrated holiday in the entire nation marked by family reunions and gift-giving. In Brazil, it’s the second most-celebrated holiday after Christmas and includes grandmothers and aunts and other special women who are important in the lives of children. It’s traditionally celebrated with family gatherings for picnics and gifts of flowers.


South Africa sees the tradition of wearing red or pink carnations, while Ethiopia’s Antrosht festival involves feasting and public celebrations. In Malawi, it is celebrated on October 15 to coincide with International Rural Women’s Day and helps to highlight the struggle of women in impoverished areas.

These are, of course not all the countries that celebrate Mother’s Day, but regardless of their origins nearly all world cultures understand and honor a mother’s place in society.

Unique International Mother’s Day Traditions

South Korea’s tradition of giving red carnations symbolizes respect and love for mothers.

Ethiopia’s Antrosht festival features government-sponsored events and communal feasting.

Mother’s Day in Russia, celebrated on the last Sunday of November, has its origins in the Soviet era but has since evolved into a day to honor maternal figures. One unique tradition involves children presenting their mothers with handmade gifts and cards, often accompanied by poems expressing love and gratitude. It’s a heartfelt occasion marked by family gatherings and expressions of appreciation.

Norwegian Mother’s Day, or “Morsdag,” is celebrated on the second Sunday in February. One unique tradition involves children preparing a special Mother’s Day cake called “Morsskake,” often a heart-shaped cake decorated with icing and marzipan. Families also engage in outdoor activities such as hiking or skiing, fostering quality time together in appreciation of mothers.

In Nepal, Mother’s Day, or “Mata Tirtha Aunsi,” is celebrated on a date determined by the lunar calendar, typically falling in April or May. Children pay homage to their mothers by performing rituals, offering sweets, and touching their feet as a sign of respect. The occasion holds deep cultural significance, emphasizing the bond between mothers and children and the importance of maternal blessings.

Mother’s Day in Argentina is celebrated on the third Sunday of October. One unique tradition involves organizing “Dia de la Madre” concerts and events featuring music, dance performances, and poetry readings dedicated to mothers. Families also gather for special meals and present mothers with gifts and flowers as tokens of appreciation.

Mother’s Day in Indonesia, known as “Hari Ibu,” is celebrated on December 22nd. One distinctive tradition involves organizing community events and charity drives to support mothers in need and raise awareness of maternal health issues. Families often gather for meals, and children may perform acts of service to honor their mothers, such as helping with household chores or cooking special dishes.

Unique Mother’s Day Gifts

Inspired by these worldwide celebrations, here are some unique gifts you might consider to make Mother’s Day special for a mother you know.

Customized Jewelry: Consider personalized jewelry pieces such as a necklace with her initials, birthstones of her children, or a bracelet engraved with a meaningful message. Customized jewelry adds a personal touch and shows thoughtfulness in your gift selection.

Spa Experience: Treat your mother to a luxurious spa day or a pampering session at home with a spa gift basket filled with bath bombs, essential oils, scented candles, and plush robes. This gift allows her to indulge in relaxation and self-care. And don’t forget to allow her the time to enjoy them!

Personalized Photo Album or Scrapbook: Create a memorable keepsake by compiling photos of special moments with your mother into a personalized photo album or scrapbook. Add handwritten notes, captions, and decorative elements to make it extra special.

Culinary Experiences: If your mother’s a foodie or wine aficionado, consider gifting her an opportunity to learn new cooking techniques from a local chef, or a wine-tasting experience at a local winery. Or just take her out to a new or favorite restaurant to explore more dining experiences.

Indoor Garden Kit: For the gardening enthusiast, an indoor garden kit complete with herbs, succulents, or microgreens is a thoughtful and unique gift idea. It allows her to cultivate her green thumb and add freshness to her home decor.

Personalized Artwork: Commission a piece of artwork, such as a portrait or custom painting, featuring her favorite scenery, family portrait, or meaningful quote. Add her name or initials to a piece of artwork. Personalized artwork adds a touch of elegance and sentimentality to her living space.

Experience Gift: Gift your mother a memorable experience such as a hot air balloon ride, wine tasting tour, pottery class, or tickets to a live performance or concert. Shared experiences create lasting memories and bonding moments.

Subscription Box: Sign her up for a subscription box service tailored to her interests, whether it’s gourmet food, beauty products, books, or crafting supplies. Subscription boxes offer a curated selection of items delivered straight to her doorstep, providing a delightful surprise each month.

DIY Spa Kit: Create a DIY spa kit filled with her favorite skincare products, bath salts, face masks, and relaxation essentials. Include a handwritten note or coupon offering your services for a spa day at home, complete with massages and foot soaks.

Inspired by Korean traditions, Write her a Letter or Poem: Sometimes, the most meaningful gifts are loving words from the heart. Write a sincere letter or poem expressing your love, gratitude, and appreciation for everything she does. It’s a simple yet powerful gesture that she’ll treasure forever.

Mother’s Day is celebrated worldwide with diverse customs and dates, reflecting cultural, religious, and historical influences. Despite these variations, the essence remains universal: appreciating and honoring the mothers and maternal figures in our lives.

Have we gotten you in the mood for some Mother’s Day shopping? It is so easy, and fun, to explore meaningful Mother’s Day gifts celebrating her on her special day, and all year ’round, at The Bradford Exchange website. See what we are offering in 2024 by visiting Mother’s Day gifts. How about Mother’s Day jewelry? While wellness gifts can be so delightful and comforting, our handcrafted everlasting bouquets of Mother’s Day flowers will continue to be enjoyable after the holiday.

Thank you for reading and we hope you have learned more about Mother’s Day traditions around the world. Please share your unique Mother’s Day stories or traditions in the comments below. Happy Mother’s Day to all and hope you will build many fond memories on May 12 this year.

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