I’m frequently being castigated for my cynical views on the proliferation of the various celebrations that spring from the minds of marketing executives around the world, and it seems that even the implementers of such events were equally put out by the rampant commercialism that became synonymous with their originally laudable creations.
Take today for example.
I’ve noticed on my Facebook feed that a lot of people have been celebrating Mothers’ Day around the world this Sunday.
This, I have to admit, did give me one slight moment of affiliate panic, thinking that I’d missed the first guilt-rip-off of the year. But of course, being English, we have to be bloody different to everyone else and have ours in March.
I took this as a sign that we were probably the ones who came up with the idea of honouring our family matriarchs with their own day, never really having considered that it may have originated elsewhere.
But no, it was an American invention.
I immediately thought; Well that makes sense, another import from the land of commercialism.
Although it seems as if I did a disservice to the woman who began the tradition.
Daughter of Invention – Anna Jarvis.
Mothers’ day was initially the idea of West Virginian peace worker Anna Jarvis, who dedicated the day to her late mother in 1908, at a memorial in Grafton.
Her idea was to show appreciation for her mother, to encourage other women to do the same, and to have children write letters of tribute to their mothers. She even gave out free carnations at her mother, Ann’s memorial.
The Mother’s Day shrine and more recent Mother and Child statue, Grafton, VA.
It seems, however, that it took only a few years for the local florists and candy makers to take commercial advantage of her good intentions.
Indeed, by 1920 Jarvis was so offended by the attempt to hijack her idea for financial gain, she was actually instrumental in trying to get the celebration banned, going so far as to get herself arrested for disturbing the peace by gatecrashing, and protesting at, a confectioners convention in 1925.
Sadly, she died penniless after having spent much of her later life campaigning against what her own innocent idea had become.
A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment.
Now I’m not saying that I disapprove of the concept of honouring the woman who brought me into the world, or the woman who, after Mum died and my Dad remarried, worked so hard to bring up someone else’s kids as well as her own.
But why should I be forced into doing so on one particular day?
I do, of course, as we are all so conditioned by the media to observe such things that it would seem unreasonably churlish not to do so.
How many more of these days of tribute are we going to get though?
I mean, the beginnings of Father’s Day were equally free from cynical financial motives.
Sonora Smart Dodd.
Another formidable woman, Sonora Smart Dodd, was responsible for the appearance of the paternal equivalent of Jarvis’s memorial, dedicating a day to her father, and to other Civil War veterans in Spokane, WA, in 1910.
Although the holiday was a long time catching on.
When Dodd left for a few years it died out, and it was only when she returned to the area some time later that she convinced local traders that producing male-orientated gifts such as pipes and tobacco would be in their interests – as well as reinvigorating her idea – which finally caught on locally. But it still took until 1966 before president Johnson made it a nationally recognised event.
(Ironically, it appears that the American public initially rejected the idea, as they considered it a cynical attempt by merchants to jump on the bandwagon of Jarvis’s earlier idea)
So what will be the next day that somebody thinks we need to celebrate?
We already have Christmas, Easter, Birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Halloween, April Fools Day, Groundhog Day, and now we even have National Grandparents Day.
Whatever next, International Son’s Day?
Ah, hang on, I think I might have something there…