Mental Floss

10 Things You Might Not Know About Mother's Day

Brette Sember
Verizon logs billions of minutes' worth of phone calls on Mother's Day.
Verizon logs billions of minutes' worth of phone calls on Mother's Day. / Mariia Lyshchik / iStock via Getty Images Plus

Everyone knows Mother's Day 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 poor 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.

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 cake for Mother's Day.
Lenti Hill / iStock via Getty Images Plus

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 2022, it's estimated that 57 percent of people plan to "gift a brunch, dinner or other special outing this Mother’s Day."

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

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), more than $31 billion will be spent on gifts this Mother's Day, with more than $7 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...

Mothers' Day preparations in Antalya
Mothers' Day preparations in Antalya / Anadolu Agency/GettyImages

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, 72 percent of moms are still going to get flowers from their loved ones on this special day.

7. ...but nothing beats a classic greeting card.

In total, 75 percent of people are buying mom a card this year for Mother's Day. That edges out 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.

Two women embracing.
PeopleImages / iStock via Getty Images Plus

It's estimated that there are 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.

If there were a monetary competition between the parental appreciation days, mothers would win outright. In 2021, people spent an average of $174 on Father’s Day, compared to the $245 that people are expected to spend on Mother’s Day 2022. Sorry, Dad.

This article was originally published in 2017; it has been updated for 2022.