One day for mothers


“Mother’s Day Paint Job,” creative commons licensed on Flickr.

One day out of 365? Not good enough.

Anthropologists have analyzed some annual holidays such as Mardi Gras in the West and Holi among Hindus in South Asia. They often involve “inversion.”

In Mardi Gras, people have a riotously good time in ways not normally accepted. Sexuality is emphasized. Some participants cross-dress.

During Holi, people get smashed on bhang, a powerful hash milkshake. In villages, low caste people pour buckets of urine on high caste people. Women beat their husbands with brooms.

Interestingly, these important holidays, like Mother’s Day, occur in the spring. Some aspects of Mother’s Day indicate that it is a ritual of reversal, though of a more quiet kind that Mardi Gras or Holi.

The functional theory of reversal rituals or holidays relies on the model of a pressure cooker. The pressure cooker model says that a reversal ritual allows a period of time, often just a day, within which people get a break from their normal roles and routine. Having experienced a release from the pressure, they go back to the same old same old for another 364 days.

My casually collected evidence for how Mother’s Day is marked in the United States reveals aspects of reversal in gift-giving, especially taking mom out for a meal, remembering her with a greeting card or a long distance phone call if you can’t visit her. These gifts constitute important reversals in terms of two core aspects of motherhood around the world: meal provision and care through communication.

Does Mother’s Day, as celebrated in the United States at least, fit the pressure cooker model? Such may be the unconscious hope of many children: okay, mom, I took you out for brunch and gave you a card, so be happy.

My hope is that all of us, born of a mother who cared for us, know that a ratio of 1/365 is not good enough by half. While further research is needed, my hunch is that the expectations for Mother’s Day is the bottom line. You have to do something–at least make a phone call. If not you are in deep trouble.

But that which is necessary is by no means sufficient.

Blogger’s note: Wikipedia’s entry on Mother’s Day around the world is worth a visit.

One thought on “One day for mothers

  1. Jude

    Mother’s Day is antithetical to me for many reasons. First, it’s a day that’s designed to induce guilt in offspring. Second, every mother gets something, even the narcissistic, neglectful mothers. Third, it’s a phony holiday. My children are not encouraged to celebrate mother’s day. When they were younger, and they made something in school, I’d accept that. On the other hand, I am still compelled to give my mother, who was *not* a good mother, a present. In fact, my kids and I will deliver it tomorrow.

    Like

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