Mother’s Day is the mother of all holidays in the U.S. But the celebratory occasion is not unique to the U.S. and is celebrated around the world. In many countries, mom’s special day is observed the second Sunday of May, like in the U.S. But in some countries, it’s celebrated other times during the year. Whenever it’s celebrated, it’s a day that crowns mom as a celebrity who is feted with gifts, special meals, and unconditional love.
Mother’s Day or Dia das Mães is a day of big celebrations in this party-loving country. It falls on the second Sunday in May, like in the U.S., and is honored with a church outing, generous gift-giving, and family barbecues with churrasco (grilled meat)—the star is a top prime sirloin that’s typically served with rice and beans.
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The end of the fall rainy season is when Mother’s Day is celebrated, as part of a three-day Antrosht festival. A celebratory feast takes place—sons typically are responsible for bringing lamb or other meat, while daughters come with vegetables, cheese, spices, and butter, and a hash is prepared. Post-feast, mothers and daughters anoint themselves with butter on their face and chest. And singing and dancing are part of the festivities.
France celebrates Fête des Mere on the fourth Sunday of May (unless it falls on Pentecost, then the holiday is celebrated on the first Sunday in June). Maman is showered with gifts including flowers, perfume, and chocolates—and sometimes a cake that resembles a bouquet of flowers. Restaurants in France are busy, and a Mother’s Day brunch might include patisseries, macarons, oysters, eggs Benedict, Champagne—of course, it’s France, so whatever mom orders is a gift from the chef.
Mothering Day is celebrated the fourth Sunday of Lent. It was born in the 16th century as a day to honor the Mother Church and Mother Mary, and not necessarily “mom.” Today, it’s a celebratory occasion to go to church and to honor your mother. A traditional Simnel Cake (almond-flavored fruit cake) was served way back then and is sometimes still part of the festivities (but also served at Easter), along with gifts and a family dinner, of course.
The busiest day of the year in Mexico is Día de las Madres which is always May 10. It’s a colorful, festive day with religious significance—Madonna and child are often displayed, special masses are held, mariachi bands play Las Mananitas, and traditional holiday treats tamales and atole are morning treats for mom.
Japan, too, celebrates Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May. One tradition is for children to prepare home-cooked dishes from recipes their mothers had passed down—a nice sentiment. And carnations are a popular gift. (Try combining both traditions with carnation-topped cupcakes like the ones above.)
The Chinese also celebrate Mother’s Day the second Sunday in May with carnations and daylilies. Young children often wash their mother’s feet and make drawings for her. Older children might prepare a special dinner, and a traditional red bean cake is typically part of the celebratory dinner.
One story has it that the origin of Mother’s Day began in Egypt when the ancient Egyptians celebrated the Goddess Isis, regarded as the mother of all pharaohs. At any rate, the first day of spring is when mothers are feted with a Mother’s Day celebration in Egypt, as well as in many Arab countries.
Mama Mia, La Festa della Mamma is big in Italy, and always the second Sunday in May. A festive lunch of pasta and meat is traditional—sometimes prepared at home, or in a restaurant. Wherever the meal is shared, it is typically crowned with a heart-shaped cake. Being a predominantly Catholic country and the holiday falling on a Sunday, many Italians also go to church to celebrate Madonna and child.
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