Mother’s Day falls on Sunday, May 14, this year. It may surprise you to know that celebrations honoring mothers are ancient traditions, not a Hallmark invention. Discover more about Mother’s Day—plus 10 fun ideas to celebrate mom!
When Is Mother’s Day?
In the United States, Mother’s Day is celebrated annually on the second Sunday in May, therefore the date changes each year. Although Mother’s Day is a national holiday widely observed in the U.S., it is not a federal or public holiday (when businesses are closed).
Mother’s Day Dates
Sunday, May 14
Sunday, May 12
Sunday, May 11
Sunday, May 10
The History of Mother’s Day
A day to honor mothers has existed for as long as, well, there have been mothers. Festivals honoring mothers in ancient times were often tied to gods and goddesses and maternal symbols of fertility, birth, creativity, and cycles of growth. The mother is the protector and nourisher of children and, by extension, of all humanity. The Phrygians held a festival for Cybele, the Great Mother of the Gods. The Greeks and Romans also honored the mother figure of their gods. Even today, an important festival in India, Durga-puja, honors the goddess Durga.
During the Middle Ages, people would return to their home or “mother” church once a year during the middle of Lent. (Back then, children would often leave to work at the tender age of 10!) Historians theorize that it was the return to the “mother” church that led to the tradition of children getting the day off to visit their mother and family.
In 16th-century England, this celebration became “Mothering Sunday.” Children—mainly daughters who had gone to work as domestic servants—would be given the day off on the fourth Sunday of Lent to return to their mothers and home parish. The eldest son or daughter would bring a “mothering cake,” which would be cut and shared by the entire family. Family reunions were the order of the day, with sons and daughters assuming all household duties and preparing a special dinner in honor of their mother. Sometime during the day, the mother would attend special church services with her family.
Mothering Sunday was also known as Refreshment Sunday; the fasting rules were relaxed for that day. (Often, the gospel for the day was about Jesus feeding the crowd with loaves of bread.) The traditional cake, called a Simnel cake, is a fruit cake with two layers of almond paste. The cake was made with 11 balls of marzipan icing on top, representing the 11 disciples. (Judas is not included.) Traditionally, sugar violets would also be added.
In the United States, three women were most instrumental in establishing the tradition of Mother’s Day: Ann Reeves Jarvis, Julia Ward Howe, and Ann’s daughter, Anna M. Jarvis. Learn more about these three great women who fought for children’s welfare, health and peace.
→ Read our article about the History of Mother’s Day in the United States.
10 Ways to Celebrate Mom This Year
This covers the big stuff, but here are 10 creative ways to reach out to mom to show her a little extra comfort, love, and recognition. After all, moms are always there for us!
1. Offer yard and garden services.
- If you’re local to your Mom, give her a “gift certificate” for your family’s yard and garden services. Help her by laying down mulch. Put the “certificate” in a flower pot with spring-planted bulbs which flower in summer.
- If you’re not local, how about a subscription to The Old Farmer’s Almanac Garden Planner? Any gardener would love it! And it’s an instant present without shipping!
2. Decorate your mom’s door or give flowers!
If you’re nearby, you can have fun decorating your mom’s front door with streamers, special signs, a wreath, and flowers! If you have kids, get them involved! Mom or grandma will love the surprise.
Of course, flowers and plants are always a delight. If you’re local, deliver plants to her porch in person. If you’re not local, there’s always delivery in most places (but order well enough ahead!).
3. Cook for Mom or set up a brunch date.
- Breakfast in bed is always a classic and appreciated! Something simple is fine for this, such as toast or a croissant with jam or fruit and a cup of coffee or tea. Or, if she’s not fond of eating in bed, how about preparing a sit-down brunch? Here are 15 delicious brunch ideas.
- If you’re not with mom in person, how about a virtual brunch date? We suggest these Champagne Mimosas. You can drop off the ingredients at her door if she’s local, or send the recipe in advance to everyone! Then Zoom with the entire family and raise a glass to mom!
- If your mom is local, drop off a casserole dinner. It’s great comfort food, and you can put it all together to drop off on her porch! See 15 casserole recipe ideas.
- Or, bake a cake! Traditionally, children in England always baked a cake for their Mother’s Day. If you like this tradition, here’s a truly delicious (and better than boxed) cake recipe: Chocolate Mousse Cake. We also love Nana’s Funny Cake.
Frittata de Nonna. (Nonna means grandmother in Italian.)
4. Give your mom a long phone call or put on a virtual talent show!
- Talk to her (or videochat) and make her laugh. Perhaps throw in some good “mom jokes.”
- Put on a talent show! It can be simple. Sing a song, show off some gymnastics, play an instrument.
5. Watch a movie or show together, side by side.
- If you’re all at home in one place, have a movie that night, complete with theater treats.
- If you’re in separate locations, watch the same movie on your computers at the same time. Or, start a marathon of your favorite TV series while indulging in a glass of wine or cup of tea.
(Did you know? Netflix also has a way to watch together online. If you and your mom have a Netflix account and Chrome installed on her laptop or desktop, you can watch a movie together! There is even a group chat function for commenting live during the movie from wherever you are in the world. See Netflix Party.)
6. Get creative: Make Mom a video, a music playlist, or a piece of art!
- Record a video from all of the children. They can each say “Happy Mother’s Day” and why they appreciate her. You can always use iMovie to splice videos together on your phone.
- Or, make a tape or a music playlist. You could gather calming songs for bedtime, such as the sound of the seas. Or, you could gather her very favorite songs from the era that she loves most. (If your mom has an iPhone, create a special iTunes playlist that will get emailed to her.)
- How about a special work of art for Mom? For example, paint the outside of a terra-cotta flower pot and fill it with garden seeds and a card. Or, make a beautiful photo frame with your family photo inside. You can find many ideas on Pinterest and elsewhere on the Web.
7. Get outside! Go for a stroll in the park or how about packing mom a picnic?
- Fresh air always lifts the spirit. Spring is a wonderful time to visit a park and look for all those lovely spring flowers.
- How about packing a simple picnic? If mom’s living nearby, drop off a picnic basket on her porch! If you’re living together, pack a cooler for a beautiful drive through the countryside. Here are great picnic food ideas.
8. Make a homemade gift!
You don’t need to go out to a store and buy a gift. Mothers love gifts from the heart.
Here are some fun craft projects—including gifts from the kitchen as well as DIY beauty products for a home spa basket!
If you wish to buy a gift online, how about jewelry with her child’s birthstone?
- For example, if your birthday is in August, give your mother peridot stud earrings. She’ll always think of her dear child when she wears them. See birthstones by month if you’re not sure of your birthstone or its meaning. Many small online businesses offer free shipping. Etsy is also a great place to find unique jewelry and help support small businesses at the same time.
9. Travel virtually to a museum or garden!
Even if you’re not together, the wonders of technology make so much possible today. More and more museums are opening up their “walls” to offer virtual tours!
10. Make your own card.
- Don’t forget to send a card in advance! In our home, it’s a tradition to make a homemade card every year. Moms love homemade! Here’s one way to make Homemade Note Cards.
- Wondering what to write in the card? How about sharing a funny story or happy memory of you and your mom? It will make her smile!
Memories of Mom
Here at the Almanac, we asked around the office to share some of the happiest or funniest memories of their own mothers. We welcome your happy memories and stories, too! (Please share in the comments below.)
My mom sang a lot around the house and I thought she made up all of the songs. When I got older, I started to hear those same songs on the radio and was like “Hey, … !”
–Sarah P., Almanac editor
My mom is a big gardener. One year, we grew sunflowers that were almost 8 feet tall! They were amazing—especially to me, a young kid. She’s the one who got me interested in plants!
–Chris B., Almanac editor
When I was a teenager, my mother went back to college to get her Master of Library Science—studies that required her to learn how to program computers. This put me in the unique position of being able to help my mother with her homework.
–Peter R., Almanac programmer
When I was young and all of my older siblings were in school, my mom and I would have breakfast by the kitchen window and watch the hummingbirds. We loved watching the hummingbirds!
–Colleen Q., Almanac art director
We went to Ocean City, Maryland, every summer for a week on the beach. My mom went out on the beach every sunny day and sat there, under a big umbrella. She never got a tan (she had very fair skin and burned easily). No one can remember her ever going into the water. Not once.
–Tim C., Almanac editor
Some of my happiest memories are singing songs with Mom as she played the piano. She also encouraged me to play. Even though it was a struggle at times, I am glad to have had lessons, not only because I discovered how to play an instrument but also because I learned how to read music and how the notes worked together to make a melody.
–Heidi S., Almanac editor
My Mom and I have what we’ve always kind of called “our psychic connection” because it always seems like she will call me when I’ve been thinking of her a lot that day, or I’ll call her and she’ll say she’d been thinking of me. It seems like my daughter and I also have the “psychic connection”!
—Stacey K., Almanac staff
Before I started school, Mom took me to the library every week to take out five books and return the five books from the prior week. We’d read together almost every day.
–Colleen Q., Almanac art director
Together, let’s honor the women who raised us—making sacrifices for us every day and nurturing our families and greater communities.
Of course, if you are a mother, all of us at The Old Farmer’s Almanac wish YOU a very Happy Mother’s Day!