Tamarindo Family Photos-1098August 15th is a huge deal in Costa Rica. It’s Mother’s Day here, which is a very important holiday. The country comes to a grinding halt as everyone takes the day off work to celebrate their love for their mother. It’s truly a sweet day, as Ticos everywhere drop everything to share their deep affection and gratitude for their moms.

Lots of other countries celebrate this holiday on many different days. In the US, Mother’s Day is on the second Sunday in May. In Norway it’s in February; in Bosnia it’s in March; in South Korea in May; in Russia, November; and in Argentina, October. Why did Costa Rica choose August?

Tamarindo Family Photos-8034To answer that question, a short history lesson is in order. According to this article by EUGENIA RODRÍGUEZ SÁENZ published in Costa Rica’s leading newspaper, La Nación, the very first official Mother’s Day in Costa Rica was celebrated in 1923. It was an initiative largely encouraged by the Catholic Church – so it’s no coincidence that August 15 coincides with the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Saenz argues that although today Mother’s Day is simply a way to show gratitude for your mom, back then it was also designed to reinforce traditional roles of women in society. Newspapers across the country heralded the new holiday as a way to glorify women who took the age-old position as domestic homemaker and subordinate to their husband.

An article in the newspaper La Tribuna in August of 1932 stated the following: “La Iglesia Católica nos ha puesto como ejemplo de madres a una mujer que lo fue sin dejar de ser virgen. Es esta una bella lección que debemos aprovechar, empeñándonos porque la madre realice su sagrada función sin que se pierda la virginidad de su alma y afirmando cada vez más en ella la idea de que la verdadera felicidad siempre se basa en un amor ideal”.

In English, that roughly translates to: “The Catholic Church has given us as a prime example for mothers a woman who was a mother without ceasing to be a virgin. This is a beautiful lesson that we should aspire to, because a mother who realizes her sacred function without losing the virginity of her soul affirms that true happiness can found based on this ideal love.”

In short, the holiday was designed to glorify “model women,” who were encouraged to aspire to be pure like the Virgin Mary. However on the other hand, recognizing the value in women justified their existence and importance in society. This, in a way, gave them more of a voice and presence in the public sphere.

The takeaway from Saenz’s article might be that the origins of Mother’s Day are a bit more complicated than they appear at first glance. Early Mother’s Day celebrations were arguably designed to pigeonhole women into their traditional “womanly” roles. Yet celebrating and valuing women elevated their status in society, and helped pave the way for them to branch out into new and more diverse roles.

Photo Credits:

Genna Marie Robustelli of Tamarindo Family Photos