Mother’s Day is upon us, and families all over the world celebrate the day by honoring their moms through a variety of ways, as we all ease into what may be a “new normal.” Mother’s Day is celebrated across the country every year on the second Sunday in May, but this holiday has special importance to the African American family. It was declared a national holiday in 1914, and throughout its more than 100-year history, families have created ways to honor the day and create lasting memories.
A lot of Mother’s Day traditions center around the church, with church services kicking off Mother’s Day morning with announcements acknowledging matriarchs in the congregation and special performances from the choir honoring mothers. Many of these special songs have been performed and passed down generation to generation to keep Mother’s Day traditions sacred, outside of the Hallmark card grab bag of commercialism. While physical churches were closed during the pandemic, congregations shifted their services online to keep that sense of community and spirit alive, regardless.
Mother’s Day is special for not only mamas and future mamas, but also for families who use the holiday to honor the caregivers and nurturers of the black community. While some of us literally grew up with our “surrogate” mothers, all of us had some level of big sisters, “play” aunties, God-mamas, and cousins to help with our rearing. It often takes more than a village and for our community, those connections tend to run long and deep. As we look back at the many who helped to raise us, and especially our own mothers who may have had to play multiple roles and work multiple jobs, to help keep us afloat, we take this day above all of the others, to celebrate those strong women.
Flowers are also an important gift around the day, and spring in general. Many mothers are gifted with roses or carnations to express gratitude for their sacrifices. Some moms decorate their homes in fresh flowers to bring that Spring energy indoors. The adventurous family will take the time to get their hands dirty and plant some lilies for their mom to blossom next year for their mom.
It’s clear that the way black folks come together for Mother’s Day resonates throughout our communities and impacts how the holiday is commemorated. We also know, holiday or not, our mothers will continue to be celebrated for generations to come. Whether it’s the thoughtful gifts or the community built around church, black families carve out space to honor the mother figures in their lives in unique, and meaningful, ways on Mother’s Day and every day.