Mother's Day

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Tied to a three day series of holidays, the Mother's Day cycle in the former Republic of Yugoslavia begins with Children's Day or "Dechiyi Dan" three days before Christmas. The following Sunday is Mother's Day or "Materitse", and the Sunday after that is Father's Day or 'Ochichi'.

On Children's Day the children are tied up and not released until they promise to be good. On Mother's day the mother is bound. To earn her freedom she must give the family treats and candy. The father gets tied the next Sunday but must promise more lavish gifts, clothing or shoes, and these items are usually the family's Christmas gifts. The typical gifts exchanged include candy, sweets, clothing, shoes, coats-and promises of good behavior. 

Though most of South America observes Mother's Day - Día de la madre - in May, Argentina celebrates on the second Sunday in October. Husbands cook and clean and look after the family, allowing the mother to relax and enjoy the day.  

One example of an Argentinean Mother's Day surprise party involves young children gathering their mothers together, encircling them in a room or hallway and reading them poetry. After the reading, a door at the end of the hall is opened to let in all the children's grandmothers who have been hiding as a surprise.

Inspired by American soldiers in World War I, France celebrated Mother's Day first in 1918. The Minister of the Interior created the official day in 1920, declaring December 19 La Fete de Meres, Mothers' Day. The focus then was on the re-population of France following the high rate of attrition from the Great War (aka WWI). Mothers with four or five children were awarded a bronze medal. For six or seven the mother would receive a silver medal, and eight or more offspring garnered the gold.

This tradition was abandoned when a more modern version of Mother's Day came from the Vichy government, which on May 25, 1945, instituted the National Day of Mothers. Today a common gift is a cake shaped to resemble a bouquet of flowers, along with candies, flowers, cards and perfumes.

In India, Hindus have long celebrated a 10 day festival in October called Durga Puja. As the ancient Greeks honored their earth goddess, the Hindu holiday praises their divine mother, Durga. This ancient festival has evolved into one of the biggest events in India. Families spend weeks preparing food and gifts for friends and cleaning and decorating their houses for parties

The Japanese call Mother's Day haha no hi. In 1913, Japanese Christians were already celebrating it, based on the American practice. It grew steadily in popularity and in the 1930's it was especially prevalent. That changed during WWII when the practice was banned along with all other western customs. After the war, however, the tradition was taken up again to help comfort to the mothers who had lost children in the war. By 1949, the celebration of Mother's Day had again spread throughout the country. The Japanese began holding an art contest for children. The children would enter drawings of their Mothers, and the winning drawings would tour through Japan and other countries in an art exhibit celebrating Mothers and peace. This contest was held every four years. Today, the Japanese celebrate Mother's Day on the second Sunday of May. A family may prepare and enjoy traditional dishes that their mothers taught them to cook. The Japanese give their Mothers flowers (especially red carnations), scarves, handkerchiefs and handbags.

In Spain, where the holiday is more religious, people respect and remember the Virgin Mary on December 8. Children also honour their own mothers on this day.

In Sweden, they sell little plastic flowers before Mother's Day. They then use the money that they make from these flowers to send the mothers with many children on vacation.

In Mexico, mothers day functions are organised at many schools where children present skits and songs to express their gratitude for their mothers and to entertain them. 

Mother's Day in Ethiopia occurs in mid-fall when the rainy season ends. Called 'Antrosht', Ethiopians celebrate by making their way home when the weather clears for a large family meal and a three-day-long celebration. For the feast the children bring ingredients for a traditional hash recipe. The ingredients are divided along gender lines, with girls bringing butter, cheese, vegetables and spices while the boys bring a bull or lamb. The mother prepares the hash and hands it out to the family. After the meal a celebration takes place. The mothers and daughters ritually anoint themselves with butter on their faces and chests. They dance while the men sing songs in honor of family and heroes. This cycle of feasting and celebration lasts two or three days.

In Finland Mother's Day is called 'aidipayiva'. In the morning the family takes a walk, picking the new flowers that bloom this time of year and making a bouquet for the mother. A particular flower called the valkovuokko is popular. This is a small white pungent flower. Back home Mum is presented with a decorated bouquet, while also being served breakfast in bed.

Mongolia is the only country in the world to celebrate mother's day twice every year! Mother's and Children's Day on June 1 and March 8 International Women's Day.