My First Mothers Day In France (or was it?)
I’ll never forget my first Mother’s day in France. Or at least I thought it was Mother’s day.
We had been living in Marseille for about 7 months, just minutes from Gare St Charles. I had one child enrolled in high school, one in middle school and the youngest was in Maternelle (the equivalent of preschool).
On the Friday before what I thought was going to be Mothers day, I expected my preschooler to come home with a handcrafted Mother’s day gift. To my surprise, she came home empty-handed. No card, no drawing, not even one of those macaroni necklaces.
No big deal I thought. “Maybe it’s not customary for kids in France to make handmade gifts for mother’s day just like it’s not customary for kids to pass out valentines day cards to each other at school.”
How to say Mother's Day in French
Mother’s day, “Fête des mères”
Happy Mother’s day, “Bonne fête des mères”
Then two days later, on the actual day of Mother’s day in the US and Canada, I noticed that none of the flower shops were open, there weren’t any cheerful “Happy Mother’s Day” signs anywhere. It was just another typical Sunday in France.
At that point, I just assumed Mother’s day wasn’t a thing in France and didn’t give it another thought until Friday 2 weeks later.
I was in the kitchen making a snack while I waited for my husband to return from picking up our daughter from school when I heard the door open. My daughter ran into the kitchen and blurted, very proudly, “Maman, J’ai un Cadeau pour toi!” which means “Mommy, I have a present for you”
She then very proudly held up a handmade card with the words “Bonne Fête Maman” (‘Happy Mother’s day), written in her scratchy preschool handwriting.
In that instant, it became clear that Mother’s day in France is not celebrated on the second Sunday of May like it is in the US and Canada.
Turns out Mother’s day is celebrated in France on the last Sunday of May (unless it coincides with Pentecost day in France, then Mother’s Day is moved to the first Sunday of June).
Kids do make crafty gifts at school for their mommies. Flower shops are abuzz with special Mother’s day bouquet’s and restaurants have special mother’s day meals which usually require a reservation. In fact, Mother’s day is celebrated in France pretty much like it is in North America. Or at least that was and has been my experience.
Most Popular Mother’s Day Dates
France isn’t the only country that celebrates mothers day on a different date.
Most countries celebrate some form of Mother’s day on 31 different dates. (more or less).
Here’s a breakdown, by percentage of when Mother’s day is celebrated.
- 52%: 103 countries celebrate on the second Sunday of May including the US, Canada, Germany, South Africa, New Zealand, Belgium, Switzerland, Australia and even China.
- 10%: 21 countries celebrate on the 21st of March like Iraq and Arabia
- 7%: 14 countries celebrate on the last Sunday of May like France and Sweden.
- 4%: 8 countries celebrate on the first Sunday of May like Portugal and Spain
- 11%: 21 countries celebrate with “International Woman’s Day” on the 8th of March like Laos, Vietnam and Afghanistan.
- 3%: 7 countries celebrate something called Mothering Sunday on the fourth Sunday of Lent like the UK and Ireland.
- 13%: roughly 25 countries that celebrate mothers day, do so on various dates like Thailand in August, Indonesia in December Mexico in May and in Indonesia in November.
- India: I was told by two different people from India that the concept of celebrating on the 2nd Sunday of may is slowly catching on but some Hindu people celebrate mothers in a festival called Durga Puja which is a ten-day celebration in October.
Regardless of the date or what the people of a country call it the day, the spirit of the celebrations is usually the same or similar—to honour the mother (or female) of the family, motherhood, the maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society.
Here’s A List Of All The Countries That Celebrate Some form Of Mothers Day Around The World
2nd Sunday Of May: 52 %
52% of the countries of the world celebrate Mothers day on this day
Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Barbuda, Belgium, Belize, Bermuda, Bhutan, Bonaire, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei, Cambodia, Canada, Cayman Islands, Central Africa, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Dem. Rep.,
Congo, Rep., Cote d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Curaçao, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Faroe, Fiji, Finland, Gabon, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Greenland, Grenada, Guyana, Honduras, Hong,
Iceland, India, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Kitts, Kong, Lanka, Latvia, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lucia, Macau, Malaysia, Malta, Myanmar, Namibia, Netherlands, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Saint Kitts and Nevis,
Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Singapore, Sint Maarten, Slovakia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tanzania, Tobago, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, Vietnam, Vincent, Zambia, Zealand, Zimbabwe,
21st of March Spring Equinox: 10%
10% of the countries of the world celebrate Mothers day on this day
Arabia, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Emirates, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Yemen,
1st Sunday of May: 4%
4% of the countries of the world celebrate Mothers day on this day
Last Sunday of May: 7%
7% of the countries of the world celebrate Mothers day on this day
Algeria, Cameroon, Dominican Republic, France, French Antilles, Madagascar, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Haiti, Mauritius, Senegal, Sweden, Tunisia
8th of March: 11%
11% of the countries of the world celebrate Mothers day on this day
Afghanistan, Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Burundi, Burkina, Faso, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Laos, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam
4th Sunday of Lent: 3%
3% of the countries of the world celebrate Mothers day on this day
Guernsey, Ireland, Isle Of Man, Man, Jersey, Nigeria, United Kingdom
Other Mothers Day Dates: 13%
13% of the countries of the world celebrate Mothers day on random days
- Norway: 2nd Sunday of Feb,
- Georgia: 3 of March,
- Slovenia: 25th of March,
- Armenia: 7th of April,
- South Korea: on the 8th of May,
- El Salvador: on 10th May,
- Benin: on 14 of May,
- Paraguay: 15 of May,
- Kyrgyzstan (Russian): 19th of May,
- Israel: 22nd of May,
- Poland: 26th of May,
- Bolivia: 27th of May,
- Nicaragua: 30th of May,
- Mongolia: 1st of June,
- Luxembourg: 2nd Sunday of June,
- South Sudan: 1st Monday of July,
- Thailand: 2th August,
- Belarus: 14th Octobre,
- Malawi: 15th of Octobre,
- Argentina: 3rd Sunday of Octobre
- Timor Leste: 3rd of Novembre,
- North Korea: 16th of Novembre,
- Russia: Last Sunday of Novembre
- Panama: 8th of Decembre,
- Indonesia: 22nd of Decembre
Dates sourced from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mother%27s_Day