10 Things You Might Not Know About Mother’s Day

The founder of Mother’s Day would have hated these flowers.
The founder of Mother’s Day would have hated these flowers. / Nora Carol Photography/Moment/Getty Images

Everyone knows Mother’s Day—which in 2023 is Sunday, May 14—is the day to remind your mom just how much you love and appreciate her. But just how many people plan to do that each year? Here are a few facts and stats about Mother’s Day that might surprise you.

1. Mother’s Day was first suggested by a famous poet.

Julia Ward Howe
Julia Ward Howe. / Historical/GettyImages

The woman who first proposed Mother’s Day in 1870 was the same woman who wrote the lyrics to "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." After the Civil War, writer Julia Ward Howe suggested a Mother’s Day to recognize peace and protest war. She organized annual events in Boston to honor mothers, but despite her work (and her moving “Mother’s Day Proclamation”), nothing official came of her efforts.

2. Mother’s Day founder Anna Jarvis fought back against the commercialization of the holiday.

Anna Jarvis
Anna Jarvis. / Historical/GettyImages

Although Julia Ward Howe first suggested a day for mothers, Anna Jarvis (who had no children of her own) campaigned for a national day of observance for moms, in remembrance of her own mother, Ann Jarvis, who had spent years working to provide resources for impoverished mothers in West Virginia. Mother’s Day became a designated holiday in 1914, but within a few years, Jarvis became disgusted with how commercial the day had become and started a petition to rescind the holiday. (That clearly didn’t come to pass.)

3. People spend a lot of time on the phone on Mother’s Day.

elderly woman in her house on the phone, holding a white dog
Call your mom. / Halfpoint Images/Moment/Getty Images

In 2020, during the early days of the pandemic, Verizon reported a 13-percent increase in phone call volume in the U.S. on Mother’s Day when compared to a typical pre-pandemic Sunday. Text messages also went up 25 percent over the previous Sunday. That amounted to 1.75 billion minutes of phone calls and 6 billion texts. While much of that can be attributed to the social isolation experienced during Mother’s Day 2020, it wasn’t too far off from the 11-percent increase in calls that Verizon observed on the holiday in 2018 when compared to a normal Sunday.

4. It’s usually the busiest day of the year in the restaurant industry.

a man and woman honoring a mother with flowers at a restaurant
You should probably make a reservation well in advance. / Koh Sze Kiat/E+/Getty Images

Though recent years have changed this somewhat, Mother’s Day is typically the busiest day of the year for restaurants, with some 80 million adults dining out (which tops even Valentine’s Day). In 2023, an estimated 60 percent of people planned to spend money on a special outing such as brunch or dinner.

5. The jewelry and spa services industries get Mother’s Day boosts, too.

mother and daughter sitting on chairs at a spa
A day of pampering is always a good idea. / Westend61/Getty Images

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), an estimated $35.7 billion will be spent on gifts this Mother’s Day, with about $7.8 billion of that going toward jewelry. Clothing, electronics, and personal services (like spa treatments) will also be popular gifts for mom.

6. The flower industry is a big Mother’s Day’s winner ...

grandmother, mother, and child celebrating mother's day with flowers and gifts
Flowers are a classic Mother’s Day gift. / Ariel Skelley/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Carnations quickly became the symbol of Mother’s Day (supposedly representing the tears of Mary when Jesus was crucified) when it began in 1914. Soon, the floral industry promoted the idea of wearing a red carnation to honor a person’s living mom or a white carnation to honor a mother who had passed. Although this tradition has faded, 74 percent of moms are still going to get flowers from their loved ones on this special day.

7. ... But it’s hard to beat a classic greeting card.

Young boy holding a homemade Mother's Day card
Store-bought is also fine. / Peter Dazeley/The Image Bank/Getty Images

In total, 74 percent of people are buying mom a card this year for Mother’s Day. That ties greeting cards with flowers as the most-purchased gift for mom, according to the NRF.

8. Moms around the world are recognized with days throughout the year.

Many countries have a version of Mother’s Day, but the traditions vary depending on where you are. In Thailand, parades are held in honor of moms, with jasmine given out as a common gift; meanwhile, moms are celebrated in Ethiopia during a three-day festival that involves plenty of food and singing.

9. There are billions of moms in the world.

dad and two children giving a mom mother's day gifts in bed
It’s important to appreciate all the moms in the world. / Ronnie Kaufman/The Image Bank/Getty Images

In 2022, it was estimated that there were 2.2 billion moms worldwide, with 85 million of them residing in the United States.

10. People spend far more for Mother’s Day than Father’s Day.

son giving his mother a mother's day gift
Moms deserve it. / Tetra Images/Getty Images

If there were a monetary competition between the parental appreciation days, mothers would win outright. In 2022, people spent an average of $171.79 on Father’s Day, compared to the $245.76 that people spent on Mother’s Day 2022. Sorry, dad.

This article was originally published in 2017; it has been updated for 2023.