The commercialization of Mother's Day

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By Tom Holmes

Contributing Reporter / Religion Blogger

Capitalism 101—a principle:  Start something having to do with God or the transforming of society and the business sector will find a way to domesticate and romanticize it and thereby turn it into another way to make money.

Case Study: Mother's Day

The seeds of the holiday we call Mother's Day were sown by women's peace groups who wanted to honor the mothers who had lost sons in the Civil War.  These groups were composed of mother's of sons who fought and died on both sides—Union and Confederate. 

In 1868 a woman named Ann Jarvis gathered a committee to try to establish a "Mother's Friendship Day" to reunite families which had been split apart by the Civil War. The group had previously worked to improve sanitary conditions in the camps of both armies during an outbreak of typhoid.

Anna Jarvis, the daughter of Ann Jarvis continued the campaign to establish Mother's Day as a national holiday.  On May 9, 1914 President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the second Sunday in May as a day for Americans to fly the flag to honor mothers who had lost sons in not only the Civil War but all wars.

The commercialization of the holiday happened so fast that in 1923 Anna Jarvis herself began to spend the rest of her life fighting against what the holiday had morphed into.  She denounced the buying and giving of greeting cards as being too lazy to compose a personal letter.

Now days, Americans spend over $2 billion on flowers, $1.5 billion on gifts and over $60 billion on cards each year for Mother's Day.  That's a long way from mothers of fallen soldiers from opposing sides getting together to work for peace and reconciliation.

That is what has happened to Christmas, Easter, Halloween and the Sabbath.  At least in the short run, money seems to always win.


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Reader Comments

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John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 12th, 2013 9:18 PM

Interesting Mother's Day background, but the article could have been lighter on the Bully Pulpit side.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 12th, 2013 8:49 PM

I'm for stopping all war so no one will lose a child. I'm also for continuing the Mother's Day and Father's Day tradition. We all need a reason to come together as a family, that's what holidays are good for.

4 Freedom  

Posted: May 12th, 2013 8:29 PM

If you don't make people accountable for their actions and instead place the blame squarely on businesses how can you have hope they are going to change for the better?

4 Freedom  

Posted: May 12th, 2013 8:27 PM

I did not know Mother's day had such a recent birth. Very interesting except for the fact the you place the blame of domesticating holidays on the business sector. You forgot that in Capitalism 101 people only engage in a trade if both people receive equivalent value. So, people are only going to support the businesses in which they get a benefit equal to what they pay. So, in other words, the people buying the greeting cards are just as much at "fault" in taking the "good" out of holidays.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: May 12th, 2013 8:01 PM

Tom, I read this a few days before Mother's Day and it altered the way we celebrated it. Thank you for the education.

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