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The Story of Mother's Day

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Mother's Day celebrations date back at least as far as ancient Greece, where worshipers observed a spring day in honor of Rhea, the Mother of the gods. In 17th century England, Christians celebrated "Mothering Sunday," the fourth Sunday in Lent, to honor the Virgin Mary and other faithful Moms.

In the United States, Julia Ward Howe, (who wrote the lyrics to the "Battle Hymn of the Republic"), suggested the idea of Mother's Day in 1872. Howe envisioned the holiday as being dedicated to world peace.

The first Mother's Day celebrations in the USA took place in West Virginia in 1908, at the urging of Ana Jarvis. Ana's own mother had passed away several years earlier, and it had been her dream to reunite families divided by the Civil War with a day dedicated to Mothers. The idea quickly caught on, and in 1914 Woodrow Wilson declared the second Sunday of May to be the official Mother's Day.

In the years since its inception, the holiday has spread worldwide. Denmark, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Australia and Belgium now celebrate Mother's Day on the same day as the United States.

A Tribute to Moms Wild & Wonderful

from Defenders of Wildlife - This Mother's Day, we salute moms wild and wonderful. Like their human counterparts, animal mothers love, protect, and sacrifice for their young. Our kudos to moms of the wild who provide:

Food
A human baby's hungry cry elicits a mother's urge to feed and comfort. So too does a Western gull chick's pecking of its mother's red bill spot or a wolf pup's licking of the alpha female's furry muzzle. The young chick or wolf's request is generally answered by the mother passing food from her own stomach to the mouth of her offspring.

Shelter & Warmth
Like human mothers who bundle their babies in warm, fuzzy blankets and hold them close during winter, millions of animal mothers instinctively protect their young from the cold. Alligator and crocodile mothers cover their buried clutches of eggs with vegetation that radiates heat as it rots, keeping nest temperatures within tolerable limits.

Penguin mothers‚ and fathers for that matter‚ hold their eggs on their feet to keep them above the frozen land. Mother bears, wolves, and foxes build dens to shelter vulnerable young from the elements.

Affection
Affection is often credited as a wholly human trait, but it is not absent from other sectors of the animal kingdom. Human mothers use baby talk and gentle caresses; chimpanzee, wolf and cat mothers regularly spend hours grooming their children. While licking certainly keeps the young clean, it is also likely a mother-child bonding ritual.

Sacrifice
Many characterize motherhood in terms of sacrifice. Human mothers put aside promising careers or save "pin money" for their children's college education. Animal mothers sometimes make astounding sacrifices, forfeiting their own lives for their children's well-being. Sockeye salmon, for instance, go through a metamorphosis on their trek to spawning grounds that radically changes the color and shape of their heads. So serious is this change that they can not eat, literally giving up their lives so that their eggs have a chance to mature. In fact, the mothers' spent bodies actually become part of a food chain that later benefits their developing young.

Other examples abound, from the killdeer's faking broken wings to lead predators away from their nests to female northern elephant seals investing a full third of their body weight during a month of constantly nursing their new born pups. And lastly, Belding's ground squirrel mothers risk their lives by giving alarm calls, which make them highly visible, when predators get near their children and relatives. These animal moms are clearly laying it all on the line.

Happy Mother's Day!

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