Mother’s day in various forms dates back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who held festivals in honor of the Mother Goddesses. Early Christians held a festival known as Mothering Sunday.

In the United Kingdom, the fourth Sunday during Lent was a day when people would return to their “mother church” for service, and the children would give their mother flowers and other tokens of appreciation. In the United States, the origins date back to the 19th century, in the years before the civil war. Anne Reeves Jarvis helped form “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” to help women learn to properly care for their children. With parts of the country still divided over the civil war, these clubs became a unifying force.

To encourage reconciliation, she formed “Mother’s Friendship Day” in 1868 at which mothers gathered with former Confederate and Union soldiers. Another predecessor to Mother’s was Julia Ward Howe, who wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation.” In 1870, she asked mothers to unite for world peace. In 1873, Howe campaigned for a “Mother’s Peace Day” to be every June 2nd. The official Mother’s Day holiday came about in the 1900s, due to the efforts of Anna Jarvis, the daughter of Anne Reeves Jarvis. Anna thought of Mother’s Day as a way of honoring the sacrifices mothers made for their children. In May 1908, she organized the first official Mother’s Day festivities in West Virginia. That day saw thousands attend a Mother’s Day event.

The first Mother’s day was such a success that Jarvis resolved to see it become a national holiday. She started a letter-writing campaign trying to convince them that American holidays were biased. Her hard work paid off in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson officially established the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. Anna Jarvis had, in the beginning, thought of Mother’s Day as a day of personal celebration between mothers and families. Her idea of the day involved wearing a white carnation and visiting one’s mother or attending church services. But once it became a national holiday, it was not long before florists, card companies, and other merchants capitalized on Mother’s Day.

In the United States, Mother’s Day continues by giving mothers gifts, cards, and flowers, and it has become one of the largest holidays for consumer spending. Families also like to celebrate by giving mom a day off from chores like cooking and cleaning. It is also the busiest day for phone calls, increasing phone traffic more than any other day of the year.