France celebrates Mother’s Day – Fête des Mères on June 3.

Celebrating women is not a modern concept! It goes back to the Greek mythology when Rhea, the mother of all gods and goddesses was duly celebrated during spring.

The Romans took over the celebration and the cult of Cybele, the mother of all the Roman gods, survived until the 4th century AD!

Ink 96645mm happy mothers day
Mother's Day Card
The French thought of celebrating the Mums and their families as early as in 1806 when Napoleon I intended to implement an official date! But History decided otherwise!

The next attempt to create a Mother’s Day occurred in 1906, a century later, in the little village of Artas in the department of Isère and at the instigation of a man named Prosper Roche who founded the Union Fraternelle in order to pay tribute to the parents of large families.

Artas has since been recognised as the cradle of the French Mother’s  Day celebration.

Mothers Day card
Mother's Day Card
The city of Lyon followed the example and organised a Mother’s Day in 1918 to pay tribute to all the women who lost a son or/and a husband during World War I, a conflict during which the loss in human lives was astronomical.

A couple of years later a Mother’s Day celebrating the women of large families was implemented in order to encourage women to have children and repopulate a country that had lost 10% of its active male population! The celebrations included the award of a medal “Médailles de la Famille Française” to those who had many children.

Mothers' Day Cake crop
Mothers' Day Cake
However, it was not before 1929 that the Fête des Mèresbecame an official celebration.

It didn’t become part of our calendar until 1941, though, when Marshal Pétain re-launched the celebration during World War II, once more in order to encourage the repopulation of the country!

The notion of family and housewife were to become the base of the French society for the years to follow.

The celebration was very controversial at the time, not only because it had been implemented by the Regime of Vichy, but also because many thought that it was a sexist concept that denied emancipation to women, in other words that recognised them only good enough to have children, cook and clean.

Mother's Day
Mother's Day gifts, the way it should be!

Men seemed to forget that women had been working in factories to replace the men who were fighting at the front, they had contributed to the war effort, they had proven that they were equal to men and now they were asked to return to their cooking!

The stigma remained for a few years only as women’s suffrage was granted by General De Gaulle at the end of the war (better late than never!) and they painfully but successfully gained their emancipation!

On May 24, 1950 Mother’s Day was officially decreed by law and fixed to the last Sunday of May and has become one of the most popular French celebrations.

If the last Sunday of May happens to be celebrated on that same Sunday Mother’s Day is then postponed until the first Sunday in June.

Homemade Mother's Day Gift Cookie Bouquet
Mother's Day home-made gift
We all love the Fête des Mères in France!

The only downside is that, like everywhere around the world, it has been taken over by a vulgar mercantilism. Children can’t anymore get away with giving their Mum a little bunch of flowers they picked in the garden or a necklace made with noodles but they have to break their piggy bank to buy a designer item! Perfume is nice, but a noodle necklace made with love is priceless.

Source photos Wikimedia Commons: Photo#1 Happy Mother’s Day Attribution Public Domain Photo#2 Mother’s Day Card Attribution Photo#3 Mothers’ Day Cake Attribution Photo#4 Mother’s Day gifts Attribution Photo#5 Mother’s Day cookie bouquet Attribution


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About the author

I am French Parisienne and lived in Asia for nearly 20 years before settling in the UK 3 years ago. I have an interest in everything and every culture and am an avid reader. French linguistics is my "specialty" but I have a passion for history and try to mingle them. Humour is very important to me, I love writing, talking, laughing, exchanging ideas, learning more from others... the world is full of fascinating people! I never leave my home without my camera, there is always something unusual, beautiful or strange to capture. I like to pay attention to details, to the world of the "small", a parallel world if you take the time to look for it...And above all, I love my country of birth, France.