Mother's Day around the world: Why is it celebrated on different dates?

The origins of the holiday determines when the day is observed in each country

Mother's Day celebrates mums on different dates around the world. Photo: Unsplash / Joshua Rodriguez
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Mother's Day is a holiday celebrated in many countries throughout the world in honour of mums.

Some countries celebrate on the same day every year, but in other places, the date changes on an annual basis.

In the UK, today is Mother's Day while in the UAE, the occasion will be celebrated on March 21.

Other countries celebrating on Sunday include Ireland and Nigeria.

Several countries including the US and India will celebrate the holiday later in the year, always on the second Sunday in May. This year, that date will fall on May 12.

When is Mother's Day around the world?

The reason that Mother's Day is celebrated at different times of the year dates back to the origins of the holiday in each country.

The first traces of Mother's Day can be found in Greek mythology when goddess Rhea, the mother of Zeus, was honoured in spring. In the Middle East, most countries celebrate the holiday on March 21 – which is the spring equinox.

This includes the UAE, as well as Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen.

The tradition of “Mothering Sunday” as we know it today can be traced to an early Christian festival of the same name. Celebrated on the fourth Sunday during Lent, it was initially intended as a date to encourage people to return to their local or “mother” church for a special annual service.

Over the centuries, the meaning evolved to incorporate the celebration of family, specifically mothers, and although the religious aspect was largely lost, by the 17th century, it had become customary to give mothers gifts on this day.

This tradition of celebrating mums on the fourth Sunday during Lent has remained in the UK and Ireland. And while the date changes each year, Mother’s Day is usually celebrated in March.

In the US, the occasion is a modern holiday that began in 1914. Many countries around the world follow the US by celebrating the occasion on the second Sunday of May. This includes India, New Zealand, Australia and Sri Lanka.

In the Philippines, Mother's Day was traditionally celebrated on the first Monday in December. But for the past few decades, Filipinos typically celebrate the occasion on the second Sunday in May, following the US custom.

There are a number of countries that celebrate Mother's Day with their own unique days, including Thailand, where Mother's Day is marked on August 12, the birthday of Queen Sirikit.

In Indonesia, Mother's Day celebrations take place on December 22 and all women are celebrated, not just mums.

French Mother's Day is celebrated in May, but on the last Sunday of the month rather than the second. This year, France will celebrate it on May 26.

In Argentina, mums are celebrated on the third Sunday of October, which was the old date for the celebration of the Virgin Mary. That feast was moved to January by the Second Vatican Council, but Mother's Day in October remains the normal across the country.

Russia only began celebrating Mother's Day in the 1940s and marks the day on the last Sunday in November.

Updated: March 10, 2024, 7:00 AM