Today marks Mother’s Day in Ireland. The early Christian tradition of Mothering Sunday, celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent, is used today to acknowledge the achievements of mothers and to flog a few greeting cards along the way. I’m being very cynical here, I know.
From what I can observe from my Irish friends, Mother’s Day is often celebrated as a genuine expression of love for their mothers and a way of thanking them for all they have done. It’s a day where the Irish mammy gets her rightful place in the sunshine.
I, however, have never celebrated Mother’s Day. Growing up in the GDR meant I was much more familiar with the tradition of International Women’s Day which is celebrated on 8th of March. The ideal East German woman was a working mother, stay at home mothers were the exception in East Germany rather than the norm.
Thinking back, I remember one child in my entire school year who had a mum that was a homemaker. Back then, it seemed like a strange concept to me. I couldn’t possibly imagine what my mum would do all day if she couldn’t go to work. Of course the East German state facilitated working mothers with very affordable and easily available childcare. The division of tasks in the home, however, wasn’t necessarily equal and many women were expected to put in a ‘second shift’ when they came home from work.
In order to stress the achievements of all women, whether they were mothers or not, International Women’s Day was celebrated throughout the GDR. Flowers and cards were given to your teacher in school, your mother and grandmothers. I remember it as a joyful celebration which was observed by many around me.
The origins of International Women’s Day date back to the beginning of the twentieth century and are linked with the fight for greater political rights for women. German activist and advocate for women’s rights, Clara Zetkin, first proposed the idea of an International Women’s Day in 1910 at the second International Conference for Working Women.
A Women’s Day was to be celebrated in every country on the same day in order to press for the demands of women’s rights activists. From 1911 on International Women’s Day became an annual celebration and since 1913 it’s celebrated on 8th of March.
Whether you’re celebrating Mother’s Day or Women’s Day, or both, I think we can’t have enough holidays reminding us of the amazing achievements of women.