If you’re reading this, Mum, I suggest you go to the kitchen, make yourself a nice cup of tea, sit down and relax and watch American Idol on video in the lounge….after all, you’re a great mother and you’ve earned yourself a treat, haven’t you? Take it easy for once…
Phew…that was close! As you might be aware from the endless adverts in retailers’ windows, it’s Mother’s Day this Sunday. I have no idea what to get my Mum and – in the frugal spirit of things – am somewhat heretically wondering why we celebrate it at all. Shssh! Don’t tell her!
That’s not to say that mothers don’t deserve to be recognised and celebrated. Far from it. Mums are fantastic. They should be adored and cherished all year round, not just with an overpriced card and ill-thought-out present the day of the year card shops command us to. But am I alone in suspecting that Mother’s Day is just another excuse by retailers to encourage us to open our wallets?
According to research group Mintel, the UK greeting card industry is now worth over £1.3bn a year, while the UK cut flower industry is worth £2.2bn annually. And Mother’s Day is one of the industries’ biggest revenue generators. No wonder they’re all trying to ensure we don’t forget it!
What’s more, the origins of mother’s day, in the UK at least, have little or nothing to do with mothers at all. The idea was that on the fourth Sunday of Lent, people were encouraged to return home to worship at the church where they were christened – known as their ‘mother church’. Eventually this became an opportunity for families in which the children were working away from home to be reunited, and children began bringing gifts of cakes or flowers home. Later in the 19th century domestic servants were given the day off by their employers to visit their families.
In the US, the origins are more specific. When Anna Jarvis, the ninth of 11 children, lost her mother she campaigned, along with her church, for a day of the year which would be commemorated to all mothers and motherhood. In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson granted her wish. But soon Jarvis was appalled by how quickly the day was commercialised by the retailers. She led protests against it, during one she was even arrested, and tried and failed to copyright the day to put an end to the commercialisation. No doubt she is spinning in her grave at the thought of Americans spending over $11bn in recent years to mark the day.
Interestingly, I was reading the money section of the Guardian I found discarded on a train at the weekend, and in it was a letter from a man who said he never buys friends or relatives presents or cards on their birthdays, Valentine’s Day or Father’s Day etc. He claims it’s because he feels it’s all a commercial conspiracy he’d rather not be a part of, but he said some of his friends say he’s a tightwad and wondered what the newspaper’s readers thought of it all. As you can imagine, there were some strong responses!
Unlike him I’m not sure I can bring myself to ignore Mother’s Day altogether – frankly life wouldn’t be worth living. But I am wondering if there’s a more heart-felt alternative to the usual overpriced box of chocolates or floral bouquet. Any ideas?
OK Mum, you can come out of the lounge now…
How do you think we should celebrate Mother’s Day? What will you be doing?