The translation of Mother’s Day

By / 18 May 2015 / Professional translation

The translation of Mother’s Day: harder than you might think

We continue our series looking at the translation of national holidays and events with this latest instalment on the translation of Mother’s Day in Western Europe.

Walk down any major European high street in May and you’ll be struck by the number of shops selling items related to Mother’s Day – or maybe you won’t be. Mother’s Day, just like many other public holidays has become a time of commercial frenzy. That doesn’t mean that the translation of Mother’s day is as simple as recognizing the standardized products sold in its name though!

The translation of Mother’s Day: a short history

Holidays dedicated to the Virgin Mary have existed for centuries throughout Europe and it would seem that the tradition is rooted still further in the past. The secular version of Mother’s Day most people are nowadays so familiar with in France and the UK actually draws on these origins as well as others. When American soldiers landed on European shores during the Second World War, they also imported Anna Jarvis’ newly created American Mother’s Day. This purely secular holiday has nearly always merged with the religious one, allowing it to flourish ever since.

This is why in the UK, Mother’s Day is historically distinct from Mothering Sunday despite both holidays being celebrated in roughly the same way. The merging of both holidays explains why in some countries, Mother’s Day (basically a generic term now) is celebrated at the beginning of the month, half way through it or more towards its end, according to civil calendars or Lent.

Having said this, here at Mytranslation, we think it is a shame that Simnel fruitcake, traditionally baked for Mothering Sunday, is not as well-known as it once was! Here’s Rachel Cotterill’s recipe in case you are curious about it; it’s sometimes also made at Easter!

The Translation of Mother's Day - Simnel cake

Simnel Cake for Mother’s Day

In Spain and Italy, countries in which people are perhaps slightly more religious than their British counterparts, emphasis is still widely placed on honouring the Virgin Mary. Nevertheless, the Spanish translation of Mother’s Day (“El Día de la Madre”), just like the Italian one (“La festa della mamma”) still reveal that each and everyone’s own mother is celebrated too.

Luckily, Mytranslation is here to remind you about it!

All in all, it seems essentially unimportant whether the holiday is construed as religious or not. Germany’s Muttertag just as Spain’s Día de la Madre and the other translations of Mother’s day are indeed that: a way of expressing the same gratefulness, beyond everyday gestures, for everything one’s mother embodies and accomplishes. Go out and get her some flowers!

The Translation of Mother's Day - Postcard from 1916

Northern Pacific Railway Mother’s Day postcard – 1916

Photo credits

[1] – Decorated Simnel cake
[2] – Northern Pacific Railroad postcard from 1916

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