Happy Mother’s Day!

To all our beautiful Carousel Mommies...

We’re celebrating YOU
with an article about Mother’s Day traditions around the world,
and a sweet Carousel art project your little one can make for you!

Carousel of Languages
Mothers Around the World

Carousel Founder, Patrizia Saraceni Corman with her son William

Carousel of Languages began with a mother’s love, and a dream for her infant son—that he would speak multiple languages, immerse himself in the beauty of other cultures, travel and explore, and truly live as a citizen of the world.

Today, we are honored to provide a unique and enchanting early childhood foreign language education experience for our youngest generation.

We know that the rewards of foreign language education go far beyond its demonstrated cognitive and academic benefits.

We celebrate diversity by introducing young children to multiple languages and the beauty and richness of different cultures. We provide a warm, nurturing, engaging environment, and family-like atmosphere, in which each child’s individuality is cherished. Our tiny students are encouraged to move their bodies, use their voices, ask questions, and explore their world with all five senses. Beginning in infancy, we help children acquire the tools and build the confidence to become true global citizens—to flourish as individuals and recognize that they’re part of something larger.

From our flagship location in the heart of NYC’s upper east side, where we’re surrounded by New York’s vibrant international community, to our magical home in Shenzhen’s thriving OTC Harbour—and all the home countries of our 11 languages in between—the Carousel family is connected across the globe. 

It’s our goal to teach children to embrace the world’s thrilling diversity and all the wonderful things we have in common—so we’re always happy for the opportunity to celebrate shared traditions.

How about this one?

Mother’s Day!

This weekend, many countries, including the U.S. and China, will observe Mother’s Day. 

Today we’ll explore the fascinating—and surprisingly complex—history of this holiday.

More than 50 countries around the world have a Mother’s Day tradition, though not all on the same day.

Some nations integrate their own traditions with the century-old Mother’s Day holiday born in the United States in the early 1900s.

In China for example, although Mother’s Day officially falls on the second day of the fourth month of the lunar calendar each year, it is typically observed on the second Sunday in May, joining with the U.S. and numerous other countries. This blended tradition honors long-held Chinese ideals of filial piety and an oft-repeated theme in literature—a mother’s selfless love. It also references the story of Confucian philosopher Mencius’ mother, who moved homes several times to find a perfect place to raise her son; because they ended up living next to a school he became a great scholar.

Modern Mother’s day has early roots in ancient Greece and Rome, in festivals celebrating the goddess mothers Rhea and Cybele.

On May 8, 1914, the United States Congress passed a law designating the second Sunday of May as Mother’s Day, a national holiday. President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation declaring the first Mother’s Day a day honoring mothers that had lost sons to war, calling it “a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country.”

 But the movement to create an official Mother’s Day Celebration was begun by Anna Jarvis, a copywriter who lived in Philadelphia. After the death of her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis in 1905, Anna began working on a long and very personal quest to honor her mother, and mothers everywhere. 

On May 4, 1910 Anna sent hundreds of white carnations—her mother’s favorite flower—to her hometown church in West Virginia, asking sons and daughters to wear them in honor of their mothers. She also collaborated with Philadelphia businessman, John Wanamaker to hold a special ceremony in his department store on the same day. 

Anna, who never had her own children, was inspired by her mother’s work, ethics, and activism. 

During the American Civil war, Ann Reeves Jarvis had cared for wounded soldiers, both Union and Confederate. She worked to promote peace between mothers on opposite sides of the conflict, creating a Mother’s Friendship Day. Though Ann bore 13 children, only 4 of them survived to adulthood. The Appalachian region where she lived had a tragically high infant mortality rate, largely due to diseases spread through poor sanitary conditions. During the Typhoid epidemic, while pregnant with her 6th child, Ann worked closely with her brother, James Reeves, a medical doctor, to form Mother’s Day Work Clubs, to teach underprivileged mothers good hygiene practices and how to better care for their young children.

There were other such movements, organizing and honoring mothers, taking place around the same time. Julia Ward Howe, a suffragette and abolitionist best known for writing the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” created the “Mother’s Day Proclamation.” She urged mothers to unite for a “Mother’s Peace Day” every June 2, an anti-war effort specifically intended to prevent their sons from dying in battle.

But as a child, Anna Jarvis was deeply impacted by hearing her mother, a Sunday School teacher, pray that someday there would be a special day commemorating mothers. 

When Ann died, Anna vowed to fulfill that wish, and she worked the rest of her life to establish the holiday and preserve her vision for it. The younger Jarvis also argued that American holidays disproportionately recognized male achievements. She felt it was important to honor mothers and the profound sacrifices they make.

After successfully launching the first mother’s day celebration in Philadelphia and West Virginia, Jarvis established the Mother’s Day International Association and began a long and forceful letter-writing campaign, supported by a number of influential people, to have the holiday nationally recognized. Over the next few years many local churches, towns, and even states began to observe Mother’s Day, until its national establishment in 1914.

Although Anna successfully reached that initial goal, her Mother’s Day story did not end there.

Within only a few years, Mother’s Day had turned into something Anna Jarvis never intended—a commercialized money-maker for businesses such as florists and candy companies. She denounced businesses “profiteering” from the holiday that she believed in so fervently and had worked so hard to create (and rarely crediting her). She even resisted charity events hosted in honor of Mother’s Day, distrusting their motives.

One day, while dining in the tearoom at Wanamaker’s department store, Jarvis saw a special “Mother’s Day Salad” on the menu. Disappointed and indignant, she ordered the salad, then stood up, dumped it dramatically on the floor, and marched out of the restaurant.

The painting below, “Whistler’s Mother: Grey, Black and White” (The Clark Art Institute, Williamstown)

by James Abbott McNeill Whistler, holds an interesting place in the history of mother’s day.

In 1934 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, an avid stamp collector, designed a Mother’s Day stamp around this painting. But Anna Jarvis disliked the design and refused to grant the rights to use the “Mother’s Day” name. Ironically, though commonly regarded as a painting about age, wisdom, purity, motherhood, and more, Whistler intended none of those things—he only enlisted his mother for the study because his model didn’t show up! The study’s original title was simply “Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 1 (Portrait of the Artist’s Mother), 1871.”

Anna Jarvis spent the rest of her life fighting to be recognized as the “mother” of Mother’s Day, and embroiled in painful, expensive legal battles to maintain her personal vision for it, and high ideals. 

Despite its complicated history—and undeniable commercial angle—Mother’s Day is a time-honored tradition and beloved holiday. It’s a special time to cherish the dedicated, passionate, fearless, resourceful, strong women who give us life, love and nurture us, and teach us—directly and by example—how to live as citizens of the world.

Click here for a Mother's Day Art Project for your child!

Sources and Further Reading