May 10 2015 : The Times of India (Mumbai)
The holiday has become a `perversion of the simple joy of honouring loved ones’


It’s the second Sunday in May, and it’s Mother’s Day. It’s a time for Facebook posts and Insta gram photos, of Twitter trends and WhatsApp messages. For fathers, it’s a day where the most important thing is getting the right gifts, while for children, it’s about making terrible breakfasts so that mom can eat in bed ­ if she decides to sleep till the breakfast gets made. It has become, in the worst sense of the word, a Hallmark holiday, designed for greeting cards and sappy sentimentality .It wasn’t always so. American Anna Jarvis spearheaded the first Mother’s Day events in 1908 to honor her own mother, a Sunday School teacher and caregiver for wounded soldiers during the Civil War. She ran a campaign to make it an official holiday, and the US Congress, recognizing a good thing, made it so in 1914, with Woodrow Wilson signing it into law. Today , Mother’s Day is celebrated in over 50 countries, including Denmark, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Australia, and Belgium.

In the US, Mother’s Day is the third largest holiday for sending cards. It’s estimated that more than 50 percent of American households send greeting cards to moms, step-moms, and grandmothers. It’s also one of the most commercially successful American occasions, having become the most popular day of the year to dine out at a restaurant in the United States and generating a significant portion of the US jewellery industry’s annual revenue, from custom gifts like mother’s rings. Americans spend approximately $2.6 billion on flowers, $1.53 billion on pampering gifts ­ like spa treatments ­ and another $68 million on greeting cards. “Mother’s Day has become to moms what Christmas is to kids: A perversion of the simple joy of honoring loved ones,“ writes Nicole Russell at The Atlantic. “Most women want their work as a mother, their joy as a mother, their pain as a mother, to be recognized, acknowledged and honored in a genuine and consistent way. Most moms would rather have dad take the kids on a walk so she can prepare dinner in peace or another set of hands during the evening homework crunch every day, rather than one day of, So honey , it’s all about you today, you want pancakes or waffles in bed? This might be easier for men to do ­ and women to appreciate ­ than celebrate a ubiquitous, obnoxious holiday with more hype than hope to go around,“ she writes.

Russell’s criticisms of tokenism aren’t exactly new. When Congress voted to recognize Mother’s Day, Senator Henry Moore Teller described the idea of Mother’s Day as “absolutely absurd“ and “trifling.“ Anna Jarvis herself was disgusted by the crassness and tokenism that Mother’s Day engendered. “A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother ­ and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment,“ she wrote.

By 1920, Jarvis began urging people to stop buying flowers and cards for their mothers. In a press release, she wrote florists and greeting card manufacturers were “charlatans, bandits, pirates, racketeers, kidnappers and termites that would undermine with their greed one of the finest, noblest and truest movements and celebrations.“ She spent the rest of her life trying to abolish the holiday she founded. We should take note. Every day is Mother’s Day ­ or no day is. It’s up to us to decide.

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