Rituals for Mother’s Day

Contrary to the cynic’s belief, Mother’s Day is not an invention of Hallmark. The roots actually predate Hallmark, going back to ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. Now's a good time to think about Mother's Day rituals in your family.

According to Wikipedia, Mother’s Day in America was created by Anna Jarvis Grafton in 1908 as a day to honor mothers everywhere. Jarvis was inspired by her mother's dream of making a celebration for all mothers.

President Woodrow Wilson made the day an official national holiday in 1914. The holiday eventually became so highly commercialized that many, including its founder, Anna Jarvis, considered it a “Hallmark holiday,” one with an overwhelming commercial purpose. She believed people gave cards mostly because they were too lazy to create their own messages to their mothers.

The commercialization became so offensive to poor Anna she even worked to get rid of Mother’s day. She obviously failed at that.

In the United States, Mother's Day remains one of the biggest days for sales of flowers, greeting cards, and the like. Mother's Day is also the biggest holiday for long-distance telephone calls.

I confess that I always purchase a Mother’s Day card for my wife, Ellyn. However I do add my own sentimental appreciations.

I also confess that when our daughter was young, she and I prepared breakfast in bed for Ellyn on most Mother’s Days. With a tolerant smile and feigned gratitude over burnt toast, runny eggs and bad coffee, Ellyn took a few polite bites and then got on with her day.

It was a ritual that helped distinguish Mother’s Day from any other day of the year. It gave us the opportunity to work together, serving “Mom.” The ritual changed over the years as our daughter matured, going from “damage control” in the kitchen and hilarity in the bedroom to actual helping with the planning, preparation and presentation.

If you can’t cook, and if “Mom” would rather have breakfast anywhere but in bed, then feel free to end this ritual and create a better one.

Rituals are performed for their symbolic value. The breakfast in bed was never as important as what it symbolized, the message it delivered: Mom is special. We love her. We want to do something special for her on Mother’s Day.

Here are some questions and ideas to help you create your own ritual that has meaning for the woman you honor on Mother’s Day.

Would she like something that:

  • Is active and energetic?
  • Or is physically relaxing?
  • Requires thinking – like puzzles or games?
  • Is edible, like a meal or a dessert?
  • Or would she prefer something nutritious, delicious and somewhat low calorie?
  • Does she cherish her memories of family times?
  • How about a family outing or project?
  • Does she want you to be extravagant or spend carefully?

Whatever you do, hand write appreciative words and sentiments. Include some favorite memories or special, specific things she has done.

If you don’t have Mother’s Day rituals perhaps with some discussion one could be created.

Rituals can change. They’re not set in stone. In fact one of the nice things about them is watching them become tradition after they have been repeated a few times, and then seeing how you adapt them to new situations over the years.

When we outgrew our “breakfast in bed” celebration, we created a new one: now Ellyn enjoys our Mother’s Day ritual of going to the garden center and getting different flowers for us to plant in our yard and on our deck.

Planting flowers works on every level. It requires some effort, it’s not that expensive, it brings beauty to our home. And it takes the stress out of my yearly head-scratching endeavor to honor Ellyn on Mother’s Day.

Finding and creating your own rituals makes certain special days more special.

Please share any favorite Mother's Day rituals, special Mother's Day moments or any ideas you might try after reading this blog post.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Love the planting flowers idea! We are in the peak of springtime, flowers look great! I am going to have us do that this mothers Day. Thank you, Pete!

Deborah Martin
Deborah Martin

Great questions! I am active so I love a family hike.


We go ride the miles canyon railroad and take a picnic

Ephraim Frankel
Ephraim Frankel

Pete — Thanks for providing the origins of Mother’s Day: hadn’t had a clue before.

I grew up with a diminutive but strong Italian mother. She must have channeled The Developmental Model’s Differentiation Principle because early on in our family, we heard from her: I don’t want any flowers on Mother’s Day if you think I’m not your mother on the other 364!

That was the indirect injunction that had us all scrambling to find ways we loved her, all she was always doing, the rest of the year. It heightened our awareness of a loving mother and set the tone for generations to come.

Ephraim Frankel
Ephraim Frankel

PS: My mother’s defining definition for Mother’s Day forever changed the family culture calculus for how we related to her, and that was pretty much, for the most part, an every-day thing.

Nevertheless, on Mother’s Day, we always did something special for her: with a smile and a glint in her eyes, she was able to tolerate the special Mother’s Day attention!!

Peter Pearson, Ph.D.

Dr. Peter Pearson, Ph.D., Relationship & Teamwork Expert for Entrepreneur Couples Pete has been training and coaching couples to become a strong team since 1984 when he co-founded The Couples Institute with his psychologist wife, Dr. Ellyn Bader. Their popular book, “Tell Me No Lies,” is about being honest with compassion and growing stronger as a couple. Pete has been featured on over 50 radio and television programs including “The Today Show,” "Good Morning America,” and "CBS Early Morning News,” and quoted in major publications including “The New York Times,” “Oprah Magazine,” “Redbook,” “Cosmopolitan,” and “Business Insider.”

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