The Role of Carnations and the Origins of Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day in the United States is an annual holiday celebrated on the second Sunday in May. It recognizes mothers, motherhood, and maternal bonds as well as the positive impact that they have upon society.
Although Mother’s Day celebrations worldwide have different origins and celebrations, many are now influenced by the more recent American traditions established by Anna Jarvis who celebrated Mother’s Day for the first time in 1908 and then campaigned to make it an official holiday.
Anna Marie Jarvis, born on May 1, 1864 is famous for founding the Mother’s Day Holiday in the United States. Mother’s Day traditions include churchgoing, the distribution of carnations, and family dinners.
Anna’s mother, Ann Jarvis in 1868 created a committee to establish a “Mother’s Friendship Day” that was intended to reunite families that had been divided during the Civil War. Prior ‘celebrations’ of “Mother’s Day” in the United States came from women’s peace groups who sought to convene groups of mothers whose sons had fought or died on opposite sides of the American Civil War. In the 1870s and 1880s, there were several limited observances of Mother’s Day throughout the Country but none were anything more than a local celebration.
Mother’s Day in its present form was established by Anna with the help of a merchant, John Wanamaker, a father of modern marketing, following the death of Anna Jarvis’ mother in 1905. A small service was held on May 12, 1907 in the Andrew’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia. The first ‘official’ service did not take place until the following year on May 10, 1908 in the same church. Much larger celebrations took place in New York City starting in 1909.
Thereafter, Anna Jarvis campaigned to establish Mother’s Day as a U.S. national holiday, then later as an international holiday. West Virginia was the first state to declare Mother’s Day an official holiday with many additional states quickly following shortly thereafter. In 1914, the U.S. Congress passed a law designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.
The Grafton’s church in Grafton, West Virginia where the first Mother’s Day celebration was held is now the International Mother’s Day Shrine and a National Historic Landmark.
The relationship between carnations and Mother’s Day goes back to the very beginning when Anna Jarvis first delivered 500 of them at the first celebration of Mother’s Day in 1908. She chose carnations because they were her mother’s favorite flower. Many church services later adopted the custom of giving away carnations on Mother’s Day. Because of a shortage of white carnations and in part to increase sales, florists invented the idea of wearing a red carnation if your mother was living and a white carnation if she was dead. This tradition has since made its way into a popular observation at churches.
It is interesting to note that there were many holiday ‘celebrations’ that took place when Mother’s Day was first celebrated that have faded into history. Some examples include Roll Call Day and Missionary Day. Mother’s Day has continued on as a national and international holiday because of Anna’s lobbying efforts but also in part because of how commercialized it started and has become.
Don’t forget your Mother’s Day and order your wholesale carnations today.

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