Mother’s Day in the U.S. only dates back to the early 20th century, and can be traced to the efforts of one woman, Anna Jarvis. Most countries followed suit internationally, patterning their own holidays after the U.S.’s, but plenty of other cultures have their own version of the concept.
Ethiopia’s mother-celebrating holiday, Antrosht, isn’t tied to a specific date. Rather, they wait for the region’s rainy season to end, then spend three days celebrating with their families. However, unlike a lot of Western Mother’s Days, mothers don’t get Antrosht off: they’re directly involved in the preparation of the celebration’s meals.
Mother’s Day in Egypt was actually introduced by a journalist, Mustafa Amin. Amin was jailed by President Gamal Abdel Nasser nine years after the country first celebrated Mother’s Day, and was tortured while imprisoned. Amin continued to advocate for both democracy and human rights when released, solicitation donations for students, the handicapped and the poor through his newspaper.
For a long time, countries under Communist rule were prohibited from celebrating Mother’s Day, only celebrating International Women’s Day. Belarus, for example, only started celebrating the holiday in 1996. China, for its part, has embraced the Western conception of the holiday, offering visits with inmates’ mothers as part of its prison reform and creating a massive billboard with an image of an elderly woman for citizens to sign in an attempt to break a world record.
Thailand is another country that takes Mother’s Day to a whole other level. August 12 is celebrated as the birthday of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit — and since she’s considered the mother of all Thai people, the country merged the two days in 1976. Starting in July, people decorate their homes with portraits of Sirikit, and on the day of, a procession around the palace begins a full day of celebrations that only begin to wind down in the evening.
France’s history with Mother’s Day dates back to Napoleon, who apparently attempted to establish the holiday as early as the 19th century. His efforts were curtailed somewhat by that whole “being sent into exile” thing. So Fête des Mères, which occurs on the last Sunday in May, was established in 1950.
Mother’s Day in Nepal — Mata Tirtha Aunsi — is an involved, ritualistic day, especially for those near Kathmandu. South of the city is Matatirtha, where travelers congregate around two pools. The larger of the pair is for bathing and prayer, while the second one is for those whose mothers have passed on — legend has it that they’ll be able to see their deceased mother’s face on its surface.
The United Kingdom’s Mother’s Day celebration has its roots in religion, and dates back centuries. Called Mothering Sunday, it was traditionally a day in the middle of Lent during which those no longer home would return to their “mother” church — the main place of worship in their hometown. It transitioned into an occasion for a sort of informal family reunion, and eventually, children — frequently daughters — working as apprentices or domestic servants were given the day off to return home and see their mothers. (This was back in the olden days when children were typically sent away to work as early as 10 years old.)