Why is Mother’s Day different in the UK?

Why is Mother’s Day different in the UK?

9th March 2020 0 By Biggsy
Reading Time: 3 minutes

You might not know that Mother’s Day is actually celebrated on different days in different parts of the world. In 2020 there are over 30 different dates for “Mother’s Day”: the most popular being the second Sunday in May. This year that happens to fall on May 10th and the USA will be celebrating it then along with 95 other countries. So why is Mother’s Day different in the UK? Well firstly …

What is Mother’s Day in the USA?

Mother’s Day in the USA is a relatively recent 20th century invention. It was initiated after Anna Jarvis honored the 3 year passing of her mother at Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia by way of a service on May 20th 1908, the first ‘Mother’s Day’. Her Mother’s Day event quickly gained support across America with President Woodrow Wilson officially recognizing it as a holiday in 1914.

Anna Jarvis - founder of Mother's Day
Anna Jarvis – founder of Mother’s Day

So why is Mother’s Day different in the UK then?

In the UK on the other hand it’s technically called ‘Mothering Sunday’ …  but now pretty much everybody calls it Mother’s Day too, partly due to the American influence. So then why is Mother’s Day different in the UK? Well it was originally a Church service commemorating “Mother Church” and not “motherhood”. Mothering Sunday takes place on the 4th Sunday in Lent which is March 22nd this year.

It was traditionally a day off for servants who used it to return home and visit their mothers or indeed their “mother” church. Which one depends on which article you read, but they most likely visited their mother church “with” their mothers!

What’s Mothering Sunday like in the UK?

Typically we might take her out for a Mother’s Day lunch, possibly for an afternoon tea (like the Queen does) and gift a card along with some flowers. There is of course a big commercial element to things these days – but if that serves as a reminder to the great work moms do (“mums” in the UK) then so be it!

Mother's Day - mother and son
Mother’s Day in a little coffee shop in Hertfordshire, UK

Is it Mothers’s Day or Mothers’ Day? – the all important apostrophe

While we’re at it, and just to confirm, it’s spelt Mother’s Day and not Mothers’ Day. Grammatically both are correct, and it is of course “mothers” celebrating this special day. However in this instance it’s the singular form that’s being celebrated – hence Mother’s day. So now you know how to write it in your card with a little more confidence.

The reason stems back to Anna Jarvis once more. As the original founder of the day she wanted it to be a day to recognise people’s own mothers and not everybody else’s. Therefore the apostrophe comes before, and not after the “s”.

So when are mothers celebrated in other places across the globe?

In 2020 Mother’s Day in the USA is celebrated on Sunday 10th May. In the UK it’s on Sunday 22nd March. A date it shares with its British Crown dependencies of Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man, its neighbour Ireland, and Nigeria.

Many countries share “Mother’s Day” with other celebrations, ranging from ‘International Women’s Day’ in many Eastern European countries, ‘Annunication Day’ in Armenia, to the birthday of their Queen in Thailand. Most countries however have dates that change from year to year based on when a certain week in the month falls, the second Sunday in May in the USA for example.

In fact there are over 30 different dates for “Mother’s Day” in 2020 but by far the most popular is May 10th this year, the second Sunday in May, celebrated in 96 countries including the USA. Here are some examples of the key dates across the calendar showing that Mother’s Day literally covers the whole year. ‘Every Mother Counts’ after all 🙂

Date in 2020NotesNumber of Countries
March 8th International Women’s Day21
March 21st Spring Equinox19
March 22nd Fourth Sunday in Lent 6 (including the UK)
April 7th Annunciation day1
May 3rd First Sunday in May7
May 10th Second Sunday of May 96 (including the US)
August 12th Birthday of Thai Queen Siriki1
December 22n/a 1 (Indonesia)

So now you know why Mother’s Day is different in the UK check out more on ‘Every Mother Counts’ and why I ran for Team EMC.