Mother’s Day Around the World: Important Dates and Traditions

In many cultures across the globe, the matriarch is the most highly revered member of the family. Almost every country dedicates Mother’s Day (or an entire festival!) to celebrate its mothers, grandmothers, step-mothers, mothers-in-law, aunts, and other mother figures who play such an important role in our health, happiness, and wellbeing.

Here at Remitly, we’re moved by the stories of our customers who support their mothers back home, or immigrate to support their own children. Immigrant mothers often work tirelessly to provide for their children and ensure they have opportunities for a better future.

While different cultures celebrate the holiday a little differently, most Mother’s Day traditions include letting Mom relax, and giving her cards, flowers, gifts, a special meal, and affection.

Here, we look at Mother’s Day around the world, including their histories and traditions.

Is there an International Mother’s Day?

While International Women’s Day is observed on March 8th every year, ‌there is no designated international day to honor mothers.

Still, most countries have a Mother’s Day—and each has its own origin story, often tied to religious or historical events.

In modern times, Mother’s Day activities generally center around making Mom feel like the world revolves around her—which it does, every day, as she performs her special magic that keeps the family happy and healthy.

When is Mother’s Day celebrated around the world?

Every country has its own designated day for Mother’s Day. Many countries celebrate it on a day that coincides with a religious event—like the fourth Sunday of Lent—while others base the timing on the seasons. In some countries, like Mexico, Mother’s Day always falls on the same day of the month (May 10.)

The most common day for Mother’s Day globally  is the second Sunday in May.

Read on to learn when—and how—different countries around the world celebrate Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day in the USA

In 1908, former Civil War medic and peace activist Anna Jarvis held a memorial to honor her late mother, intending to create a special day to celebrate moms everywhere. Her vision turned into reality in 1914, when President Woodrow Wilson declared the second Sunday in May a new national holiday—Mother’s Day.

A few years later, the card company Hallmark took the act of honoring mothers to a whole new level, designing gifts and cards made just for moms.

Traditionally, Mother’s Day in the U.S. involves the children presenting Mom with flowers, cards, or small gifts and letting her relax while they wait on her. They often bring her breakfast in bed—and if she’s lucky, they take care of the cleanup.

Mother’s Day in Canada

Canadians celebrate Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May, and like their southern friends in the U.S., they celebrate it with flowers, cards, and a nice brunch at home or the restaurant of her choice.

Traditionally, Canadians give their mothers carnations—or wear one as a brooch. In Quebec, men often give their wives and mothers a white rose to show their love and respect.

Photo taken in El Alto De La Cumbre, Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic Mother’s Day

Dominican Republic Mother’s Day falls on the last Sunday in May. Unlike many countries where the holiday is marked by small celebrations with immediate family, Dominicans consider Mother’s Day worthy of big, festive celebrations.

Many families reunite from far and wide to celebrate all the mamás together with plenty of food, drinks, and dancing.

Flowers are a traditional Mother’s Day gift here, but small gifts like perfume or chocolates are also popular.

Mother’s Day in the Philippines

Settling on a date for Mother’s Day in the Philippines has been a few decades in the making. In 1980, then-President Ferdinand Marcos declared the first Monday in December a combined Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

Later, then-president Cory Aquino moved Mother’s Day to the second Sunday in May and declared the third Sunday in June Father’s Day. In 1998, then-president Joseph Estrada changed it back to December.

Nevertheless, Filipinos continue to celebrate Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May.

Mother’s Day traditions in the Philippines are like the U.S. and Canada and include presenting Nanay with cards, flowers, small gifts, or chocolates and letting her spend the day however she wants.

Mexican Mother’s Day

El Día de la Madre falls on May 10 across Mexico. Regardless of the day of the week it falls on, Mexican Mother’s Day starts with the children of the house waking up Mamá with a song, followed by a breakfast of tamales and atole.

During the day, many kids put on skits for the matriarch, and the sounds of mariachi bands often punctuate neighborhoods.

Lots of families have lunch or dinner out so nobody (i.e., Ma) has to cook, making Mother’s Day one of the busiest days of the year for the country’s restaurant industry.

Mother’s Day in the UK

In the UK, Mother’s Day is held on “Mothering Sunday,” which falls on the fourth Sunday of Lent—usually in mid-March. “Mothering Sunday” started centuries ago, when children working away from home were given a Sunday off to visit their mothers. Mother’s Day in the UK is still grounded in religion and also honors the Virgin Mary.

Today, mothers across the land spend the holiday relaxing, receiving cards and gifts, and (if they so choose) spending time with their children.

Many mums look forward to eating a traditional Mother’s Day simnel cake made with dried fruit and topped with marzipan.

Ethiopian Mother’s Day

Celebrated in the early fall, Mother’s Day in Ethiopia takes the form of the three-day Antrosht festival, when families gather from all over to honor their matriarchs with joyful festivities, including lots of singing and dancing.

During the festival, families will enjoy an enormous feast of hash, the traditional dish of the holiday. The children provide the ingredients—daughters bring the vegetables and cheese, and sons bring the meat—and they prepare the meal together, usually with the help of ema.

Mother’s Day in Japan

In Japan, Haha no Hi falls on the second Sunday in May and became widely observed after World War II as a day to comfort the mothers who had lost children in the war.

Children often make their okaasan a breakfast of eggs and give her small gifts, including red carnations or roses to symbolize the reverence they have for her.

Since the 1950s, it’s a common practice for Japanese children to draw pictures of their mom during a school activity and enter them into an art contest.

Mother’s Day in Australia

Australia’s Mother’s Day is on the second Sunday in May. Since it’s autumn Down Under, the chrysanthemums are in full bloom—and that’s why this flower is a traditional gift for Australian “mums” everywhere.

Wearing carnations is another tradition on Mother’s Day here. Many Aussies wear a colored carnation to celebrate their mother—or a white one to honor her memory.

Indian Mother’s Day

In India, Mother’s Day is a fairly new holiday, celebrated on the second Sunday in May. It’s a low-key observance when children give their ma cards and small gifts. Some children cook her favorite dishes, and the family celebrates together with food.

Another celebration of mothers in India is Durga Puja, a 10-day Hindu festival that takes place each October to honor the Divine Mother Durga.

Mother’s Day in France

Prior to 1904, French men who had four or more children were given a special honor by the government. In 1904, the honor was extended to women, marking the first time members of the “fairer sex” were recognized as equals in the household.

Then, in 1950, the French government took Maman-honoring a step further and named the fourth Sunday in May Fête des Mères, or Day of Mothers. If the Pentecost falls on that Sunday, Mother’s Day is moved to the following week.

Whichever Sunday it falls on, children usually let Maman enjoy total relaxation for the day—they often present her with small gifts or cards and help take care of her chores. The family traditionally ends the day with a celebratory dinner and a flower-shaped cake for dessert.

Brazilian Mother’s Day

Dia das Mães is a big deal in Brazil, where it’s celebrated on the second Sunday in May. The day generally starts with the whole family attending Mass, which is often followed by an epic picnic or barbecue attended by several generations of mamães, grandmothers, and aunts.

Traditionally, matriarchs in Brazil are showered with their favorite flowers, including roses, hibiscus, and orchids. Traditional treats are welcome gifts, too.

Gift-giving is also big in Brazil on Mother’s Day, second only to Christmas.

German Mother’s Day

Muttertag is celebrated in Germany on the second Sunday in May, unless that’s when the Pentecost occurs, in which case it’s celebrated a week earlier.

Mother’s Day in Germany has roots dating back to the Middle Ages, when families would gather in the spring to celebrate the renewal of life and—by extension—their mothers.

The holiday gained widespread popularity in the early 1920s, and in 1933, the government declared it a national German holiday. Today, families still gather around Mutter on her special day, paying visits bearing flowers or gifts or taking them out to lunch or dinner.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers and mother figures out there, from all of us Remitly. You work hard for your family, and you deserve your special day of rest and relaxation.

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