Here's how you might celebrate Mother's Day if you're stationed overseas
(Photo: US Air Force, Airman 1st Class Kia Atkins)

By Julie Provost

Celebrating mothers is an ancient tradition and can be traced back to the ancient Romans and Greeks. In more modern times, “Mothering Sunday” was a European Christian observance falling on the fourth Sunday in Lent. In the United States, during and after the Civil War, groups of moms found solidarity in comfort in numbers as they worked toward the war effort and then consoled themselves after the war. Suffragette Julia Ward Howe–the same Howe that wrote the immortal words of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”– petitioned for a “Mother’s Peace Day.” During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, women’s rights advocates began celebrating mothers in isolated, local events and observances. By 1914. President Woodward Wilson officially established Mother’s Day as a permanent, national holiday.

But how do other countries celebrate moms?


Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday of May. Children make presents in primary school for their moms. Fathers buy croissants and other sweet breads and bring them to mom in bed. People around Antwerp observe the holiday on August 15th, different from the rest of the country who has adapted the American version instead. This is also the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.


Germany celebrates the day on the second Sunday in May unless Pentecost falls on the same day–then it’s the first Sunday in May. Germans call Mother’s Day, Muttertag. During the day, people wear different colored carnations to be able to honor moms:White for mothers who have passed away and red for those that are still here. Gifts are common and mothers are taken to brunch. German families try to be together on this day.


Starting in 1933, Mother’s Day was celebrated in Italy. At first, they celebrated on December 24 and wanted to reward the most prolific Italian women every year. After World War II, Italy started to celebrate the holiday on May 12, first in 1957 in Assissi. The next year, the rest of the country adopted the date. Flowers are popular and the Italians look at the day to celebrate and treat moms as a special guests.


Mother’s Day or Día de la Madre is celebrated on the first Sunday of May. Until 1965, Mother’s Day used to take place on December 8, but it was changed to separate the secular celebration from the Catholic honoring of Immaculate Conception. Gifts, flowers, and chocolate are given to moms on that day. Children also like to read poems to their mom and the Virgin Mary is also venerated.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent.The holiday does have its roots in the church and in the beginning, was unrelated to the American holiday. “Mothering Sunday” evolved from the 16th-century Christian practice of visiting one’s mother church annually. As a result, most mothers were reunited with their children on this day as those in service were released by their masters for the weekend. Today, the day is all about showing appreciation for your mother. American Mother’s Day helped influenced the UK when American soldiers passed the tradition on to British troops during World War II.


Children get up early and say, “haha-no-hi” to their mother’s in the morning. This means “Happy Mother’s Day.” Some say that the day was introduced by Christian missionaries in 1913. Later the holiday was established by the Imperial Women’s Union in 1931. The festival had spread throughout the country by 1949. The tradition of celebrating motherhood in Japan occurred during the Showa period where the birthday of Empress Kojun, the mother of Emperor Akihito, was celebrated on March 6. These days, the country celebrates second Sunday in May.

South Korea

In South Korea, they celebrate Parent’s Day to include the father as well as the mother. This is celebrated on May 8 and was established in 1973. Parent’s Day replaced Mother’s Day and includes public and private celebrations. Cities such as Seoul take on a joyful look during the holiday. They also like carnations:Red if both parents are alive, pink if one has passed away, and white if both of them are gone.

Julie Provost is an associate editor at Military One Click and a National Guard spouse. She can be reached at