Since the ancient times, mothers and motherhood had been celebrated at festivals, but not as a day for mothers persé. Ancient Greek mother goddesses were honored, but the precursor to our modern-day Mother's Day is the early Christian festival "Mothering Sunday". This religious tradition happened on the fourth Sunday in Lent as a way to encourage believers to return to the "mother church" for a special service. Over time, this festival started taking on a more secular theme, with children bringing flowers to their mothers.
Mother's Day began in the United States of America. Most people haven't heard of Anna Jarvis (no, she's not related to Iron Man's faithful butler), but she has a place in history as the turbo engine behind today's internationally-known Mother's Day.
Growing up in the 1860s, Anna watched her mother, a West Virginia women's organizer, hold Mother's Day work clubs to improve the plight of new mothers by improving sanitation and decreasing milk contamination. During the Civil War (1861-1865), the women helped soldiers on both sides of the conflict.
A hallmark of Jarvis' women's movement was its message of respect for all human beings and peace. After the war, the senior Jarvis and her women's groups held Mother's Friendship Day picnics to promote unity among the former Union and Confederate soldiers.
One morning Ann Jarvis led a prayer in her Sunday School class, when Anna was about 12, in which she said, “I hope and pray that someone, sometime, will found a memorial mother’s day commemorating her for the matchless service she renders to humanity in every field of life."
Her daughter Anna never forgot that prayer. She felt her mother's love and understood keenly the sacrificial and thankless aspects of motherhood, although she never had a child of her own.
Mother's Day is Born
Anna spent most of her life fighting for a day of appreciation of one's own mother, hence Mother's Day and not "Mothers Day".
Today Mother's Day is celebrated all over the world; in the US, it is honored on the second Sunday in May.