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by Lia Blanchard

Motherhood. The universal love, felt for and by moms and mother-figures the world over. Every culture reveres its moms, and every culture has developed its unique way of showing it.

Ancient Romans honored the mother goddess Cybele in mid-March. As Christianity spread, this celebration became the practice of honoring one’s “mother church” on the fourth Sunday of Lent, and some traditions included children honoring their own mothers with a bouquet of wildflowers on that day.

Germany’s Mother’s Day, adopted in 1923, was modeled after the American holiday, but idealized motherhood in general instead of individual mothers. It was a political move to improve the country’s declining birth rate, and was met with strong resistance from working women’s associations. The infamous Nazi propaganda machine heavily promoted the holiday and absorbed it as part of the plan to increase the Aryan population, rewarding qualified mothers with the “Mutterkreuz” or Mothercross. Modern Germany celebrates the day much like the rest of Europe, with families treating their moms to a special day on the second Sunday of May.

May 10 is Mother’s Day in Mexico, and the day is a colorful one adorned with many flowers. Family ties are strong and Dia de las Madres is one of the biggest fiesta days of the year, with entire families gathering to honor their mothers – both living and dead – with song, dance, and food.

Hindus in Nepal observe the Mother Pilgrimage fortnight in the spring, called Mata Tirtha Aunshi. Large festivals are held, and moms are given gifts of fruits and sweets. Those whose mother is deceased honor them by going to a body of holy water and worshipping in remembrance.

Panama celebrates Mother’s Day on December 8, as part of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. In addition to an elaborate Mass, many communities host a procession with the families’ mothers, aunts, and grandmothers enjoying a special place in line, and often wearing new clothing or jewelry.

Although unofficial, it is slowly becoming popular to honor your mom in China on May 10. In addition to the familiar gift-giving, there are movements to place special emphasis on recognizing poor mothers in the Western regions, and to encourage giving a lily as a gift – in ancient times, lilies were planted by Chinese mothers when their children left home.

Does your family have a tradition surrounding Mother’s Day? How do you honor your Mom on other days of the year? Do you have any stories to share about someone who didn’t give birth to you, but is an important Mom-figure in your life?

Next: Something for Every Mom (if you can’t be with her on Mom’s Day)