On the rare occasion that we come upon a holiday with a good history I firmly believe that we should refuse the halmarkization and do something productive with it. We, of course, had little time for any great rallying around mother’s day. We had a potluck brunch today with neighbors, and I shared this moving piece, the original “Mother’s Day Proclamation” By Julia Ward Howe:

Arise then…women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.

From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”
Blood does not wipe out dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace…
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God –
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace. 

I hope to make time to approach and participate in a mother’s day modeled on this proclamation. It has been 140 years since this was published, and to my knowledge, no such international meeting of women has taken place. nor any such commemoration of the dead.  Yet we are still riddled and run by international wars. and I’m puzzling over how we might celebrate –truly celebrate– mother’s day in the midst of this. As our family learns how we want to engage American cultural traditions we can recognize that there is something here to be held on to, pressed, and pursued. While I snub my nose to the  slew of commercialized holidays our country prizes, I would like to think about ways to reawaken holidays such as may day and mother’s day, to rally up, to think about what we stand for and how we celebrate and reclaim these convictions and days.

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