A Lesson in Internationalism: Mother’s Day around the World
And 8 BOOK MARKETING LESSONS
Human nature is to affiliate with those who are like us. Because authors and marketers are human, we tend to extend this behavior to our books and the marketing efforts thereof. How well are you reaching out to readers outside your own country when it comes to your marketing endeavors?
I’m reminded of this today, in particular: Mother’s Day. In the US, it’s a HUGE gift-giving occasion. Florists live for this day and marketers of everything from tires to tiaras have sales and special offers. Yet Mother’s Day is celebrated around the world. Some celebrations mirror the American holiday, but others take a different flavor, feel, or even date. Here are descriptions of the ways some other nations celebrate.
AUSTRALIA. Mother’s Day in Australia is celebrated the second Sunday in May. The tradition of giving gifts to moms was originated by Janet Heyden, a resident of Leichhardt Sydney. Heyden started a campaign in 1924 to collect gifts for lonely, aged mothers after visiting a patient at the Newington State Home for Women. To cheer them up, she gathered support from local businesses and schoolchildren, encouraging them to donate and take gifts to the women.
BANGLADESH. Both government and nongovernmental organizations encourage observance of Mother’s Day in Bangladesh, celebrated the second Sunday of May. Receptions and cultural programs mark the day in the capital city, Dhaka. As in other countries, TV specials and newspaper columns commemorate the day, along with the typical cards, flowers, and gifts.
BELGIUM. In Belgium, Mother’s Day is celebrated the second Sunday of May. Belgian children typically make small
gifts for their mothers in school the week before the holiday. One tradition is that fathers typically buy croissants and other pastries and take them to the mother in bed, thus beginning a nice day of pampering for the mom. One treat specific to Belgian Mother’s Day are trufas falsas, a chocolate ice cream confection.
CANADA. Mother’s Day in Canada is celebrated on the second Sunday in May (it is not however, a public holiday or bank holiday), and typically involves small celebrations and gift giving to one’s mother, grandmother, or other important female figures in one’s family.
CHINA. In 1997, Mother’s Day was set as a day to help poor mothers, specifically to remind people of the poor mothers in rural areas like China’s western region. An article in The People’s Daily, the official Chinese government newspaper, explains that “despite originating in the United States, people in China accept the holiday without hesitation because it is in line with the country’s traditional ethics – respect for the elderly and filial piety towards parents.”
FRANCE. Alarmed by a declining birth rate, France attempted in 1896 and 1904 to create a national celebration honoring the mothers of large families. The French government made the day official in 1920. In 1941, larger families were still being encouraged; but all mothers were now honored, including those with small families. A1950 law required the Republic to pay official homage to French Mothers on the last Sunday in May. Today, it is treated more like a family birthday, with the entire family gathering for a special meal, at the end of which, the mother is presented with a cake.
GERMANY. As a way to promote motherhood, in 1923 Germany adopted Muttertag, the same Mother’s Day holiday celebrated in the U.S. and Norway. Though the holiday was seen as a means to get the women to bear more children, German nationalists saw it as a way to rejuvenate the nation, as the holiday did not celebrate individual women, but an idealized standard of motherhood. In Nazi Germany (1933-45), the role of the mother was unambiguously promoted as adding more healthy children to the German nation. The government started issuing an award called Mother’s Cross in 1938, recipients of which had to have at least four children.
INDIA. India has assimilated the modern Mother’s Day celebration into its culture, celebrating the holiday on the second Sunday of May. Although mothers in India are considered gods to their children, Indians do not celebrate Mother’s Day as a religious occasion, but do their best to thank their mothers for care and love. The culture has a tradition of giving the highest position to mothers, and Indians celebrates this day with immense respect to their mothers. In the capital city of Delhi, Mother’s Day has been largely commercialized, with big companies launching various women-oriented products on the day and restaurants attempting to lure people with attractive Mother’s Day specials.
INDONESIA. Mother’s Day is celebrated in Indonesia on December 22. This was the first day of the first Indonesian Women Congress (December 22-25) in 1928. The Congress passed an important resolution calling for improvements to women’s access to education, the provision of better information at the time of marriage, and further women’s divorce rights. Today, the holiday is celebrated by expressing love and gratitude to mothers. Mothers are presented with gifts, surprise parties, and cooking competitions. Mothers are also given the day off from doing domestic chores.
IRELAND. The history of Mothering Sunday (Mother’s Day) in Ireland can be traced to the medieval practice of sending children from poor families to work as domestic servants and apprentices to the rich. Once a year, in the middle of the Lent, these children were given a day off to visit their “mother church” and worship the Virgin Mary. After the church visit in their home towns, these children visited their own mothers, presenting them with flowers they picked along the way. The contemporary holiday is celebrated with programs, plays, and skits in different parts of the country.
ISRAEL. Mother’s Day in Israel was originally celebrated on Sevat 30 of the Jewish calendar (the 5th month of the civil year and 11th month of the ecclesiastical year; a winter month of 30 days that usually occurs in January/February on the Gregorian calendar). It was the same day as the death of Henrietta Szold, a champion of children’s rights with no biological children of her own. Szold’s organization, Youth Aliyah, rescued many Jewish children from Nazi Germany and provided for them. Considered the “mother” of all those children, her date of death was set as Mother’s Day. The day evolved into Family Day, during which mothers, fathers, grandmothers, and grandfathers are all honored.
JAPAN. Mother’s Day in Japan was initially commemorated during the Shōwa period (the period of Japanese history corresponding to the reign of Emperor Hirohito, 12/25/1926 – 1/71989) as the birthday of Empress Kōjun (mother of the current Emperor Akihito, who succeeded Hirohito) on March 6. The holiday was established in 1931 when the Imperial Women’s Union was organized. In 1937, the first meeting of “Praise Mothers” was held on May 8, and Japanese society adopted the second Sunday of May as the official date in 1949. Today, at supermarkets across the country, children can submit drawings of their moms for display in the stores.
MEXICO. Mother’s Day, celebrated in Mexico on May 10 as opposed to the second Sunday of May, is a huge celebration in which children honor and thank their mothers. Churches around the country organize special Masses for Mother’s Day, but the high point is the orchestra performance of “Las Mañanitas” and the early morning distribution of tamales (a Mexican dish made from meat and cornmeal) to all local mothers.
NEPAL. In Nepal, “Mata Tirtha Aunshi” (translated as “Mother Pilgrimage fortnight”) falls on the last day of the moonless two weeks of April or early May. This festival is observed in commemoration and respect of mothers, worshiping and gifting living mothers and remembering those who have passed away. Those who don’t have mothers pay observance to Mata Tirtha, a sacred site of pilgrimage and holy bathing, six miles south west of central Katmandu. One of its two pools is famous as the place where bathers “look upon one’s mother’s face.” According to Nepalese legend, the region was ruled by a cowherd king in ancient times. One of his cowherds was so depressed by his mother’s death that he went to pray and make offerings at a water storage pond in the forest on this day. Miraculously his mother’s face appeared and her hand accepted the offerings.
PANAMA. Panama celebrates Mother’s Day on December 8, also the Catholic feast of the Immaculate Conception. It is a BIG event. For one thing, it is a legal holiday, with many businesses and government offices closed. Secondly, many people travel great distances to visit their mothers and give them gifts. It can be considered the beginning of the Christmas season, with a first round of gifts for mom.
PARAGUAY. In Paraguay, Mother’s Day is celebrated on May 15, the same day as Dia de la Patria, Paraguay’s independence day. The reason for the connection was in honor of Juana María de Lara, who gave great service to her country as it rose up and broke free from Spain. In 2008, the Paraguayan Minister of Culture, Bruno Barrios, proposed moving Mother’s Day to the end of the month, because with the popularity of Mother’s Day, the independence celebration goes virtually unnoticed. To date, the two holidays remain concelebrated.
PHILIPPINES. Largely influenced by the U.S. holiday, Mother’s day in the Philippines is celebrated the second Sunday of May. A Filipino mother is called the “light of the household” and all activities revolve around her. Families typically celebrate the holiday at home. Children perform most chores routinely done by the mother, prepare food, or give their moms small handcrafted tokens.
ROMANIA. Mother’s Day has been celebrated the first Sunday of May since 2010. Previously, Mother’s Day was celebrated on 8 March as part of International Women’s Day (a leftover tradition from the days when Romania was part of the communist block).
SLOVAKIA. Czechoslovakia celebrated only Women’s Day until the 1989 Velvet Revolution. After the country’s split in 1993 (into the Czech Republic and Slovakia), it began celebrating both Women’s Day and Mother’s Day. Subsequently, the politicization of Women’s Day has affected the official status of Mother’s Day. Center-right parties want Mother’s Day to replace Women’s Day, while social democrats prefer Women’s Day as the nation’s official celebration. Both days are festive, but neither is a state holiday.
SOUTH AFRICA. In South Africa, Mother’s Day is celebrated the second Sunday of May. The South African people celebrate Mother’s Day in its true spirit by acknowledging the importance of mothers in their lives and thanking them for all their love and care. People wear red or pink carnations for mothers who are living, and white carnations symbolize mothers who have died. Mother’s Day is taken as an opportunity to thank not just mothers, but also grandmothers and women who are like mothers.
SRI LANKA. Mother’s Day in Sri Lanka is celebrated the second Sunday of May. Although relatively new to Sri Lanka, more and more people observe it every year. As a Buddhist culture, Sri Lanka has an elevated attitude toward mothers. Though the day has commercial importance, with many companies offering special products and services to celebrate, the day is not yet recognized as a holiday on the government calendar.
SWEDEN. Celebrated the last Sunday in May, Mother’s Day was first recognized in Sweden in 1919, after an initiative by the author Cecilia Bååth-Holmberg. However, it was several decades before the day was widely recognized. The reason for the late date is said to be so that people could pick wildflowers as gifts for the mothers in their lives. Those born in the early 1900s typically did not celebrate the day, as common opinion was that the holiday was invented strictly for commercial purposes. On the other hand, Father’s Day, commonly celebrated since the late 1970s, has received widespread acceptance.
TAIWAN. In Taiwan, Mother’s Day is celebrated the second Sunday of May, coinciding with Buddha Day and Tzu Chi Day as part of a unified celebration and religious observance. In Taiwan’s Buddhist culture, the Mother’s Day recognition is one of three “fields” necessary to the cultivation of wisdom: Mother’s Day represents the field of gratitude, thankfulness, and honor, Buddha Day represents the field of reverence, and Tzu Chi Day represents the field of compassion.
UNITED KINGDOM. In the United Kingdom, Mothering Sunday falls on the fourth Sunday of Lent. Most historians believe it originated from the 16th century Christian practice of visiting one’s mother church annually on this day when young apprentices and women in service were released by their masters for the weekend. Due to the influence of American Mother’s Day, the holiday transformed into showing appreciation to one’s mother. Though it is still recognized in the original historical sense by some churches, commercialization and secularization further eroded the concept and most people now see it only as a day of recognizing their mothers.
IDEAS FOR MOTHER’S DAY CELEBRATIONS
Here’s a list of ideas to celebrate Mother’s Day and related book marketing lessons.
- Collect photos, postcards, and mementos of all Mom’s favorite things and put them into a photo album or special box. MARKETING LESSON: Create a Pinterest board with photos, postcards, and mementos related to your book.
- Collect things like the recipe for your mom’s favorite cake, a packet of her favorite flower seeds, or the menu from her favorite restaurant. Whenever she’s feeling down she’ll be able to flick through her favorite things and have a smile. MARKETING LESSON: Identify a dessert, flower, or restaurant that reflects or connects with your book and create a related event.
- Make a book of all the things you have learned from your Mom. They could be serious lessons, or not so serious – or maybe a collection of both. MARKETING LESSON: Make the same list of lessons from your mom. How many can you creatively apply to marketing your books?
- Cut out heaps and heaps of heart shapes from colored card, and on each one write something special you love about your Mom. Put them all into a decorated box so that Mom can pull one out whenever she needs a boost. MARKETING LESSON: Get some index cards and on each one, write a thing readers might love about your book. Use them in your marketing materials.
- If it’s not possible to take Mom out to the movies, rent her favorite movie on DVD and make a batch of popcorn to eat while you watch the movie together. MARKETING LESSON: Make a list of your favorite movies. Mine each one for a marketing pitch, tagline, or message you can use for your book.
- There’s nothing more special to a mother than her family. Put together a photo album of your whole family, and have every person add their own special message. If you are a whiz on the computer, you could make an online album to share. MARKETING LESSON: Interview your friends, family, and colleagues. Give each one a specific chapter of your book and ask them for one idea to help you market just that chapter.
- Make a pile of vouchers which Mom can redeem from you at any time. You might want to include things like one cooking-free night, a neck massage, or a bubble bath and 30 minutes of peace and quiet. MARKETING LESSON: Make a list of 5 things you can offer as free giveaways to entice people to learn more about you, your books, your speaking, or other services.
- Download all of Mom’s favorite songs onto a CD and create a great album cover telling her she’s the best Mom in the world. Every time she listens to the CD, she’ll think of you. MARKETING LESSON: Make a list of songs related to your book. Create a contest and pay for the winner to download all the songs on iTunes.
We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.
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