Celebrations of mothers and motherhood can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who held festivals in honor of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele, but the clearest modern precedent for Mother’s Day is the early Christian festival known as Mothering Sunday.
Once a major tradition in the U.K. and parts of Europe, this celebration fell on the fourth Sunday in Lent and was originally seen as a time when the faithful would return to their mother church - the main church in the vicinity of their home - for a special service. Over time, the Mothering Sunday tradition shifted into a more secular holiday and children would present their mothers with flowers and other tokens of appreciation. This custom eventually faded in popularity before merging with the American Mother’s Day in the 1930s and 1940s.
The roots of the modern American Mother’s Day date back to the 19th century.