“LA FESTA DELLA MAMMA”
Many stereotypes exist about the Italian mamma. What is certainly true, though, is that wherever in the world they may be, Italian mothers are still the main focus of the family and family traditions. Although mothers are respected and appreciated all year round, the “official” Mother’s Day is celebrated in Italy at the same time as in the US: on the second Sunday in May. It’s not a public holiday, but it’s certainly a time when families try hard to come together to celebrate.
The very first “Mother’s Day” was introduced in 1933 as “La Giornata della madre e del bambino” - the day of the mother and child - a tribute to all mothers.
There was also an early tradition that Italian people should return to their “Mother Church” once a year. Families would descend on their own parish churches and afterwards, have a meal together before returning to their place of work. It’s true that many mothers in Italy go to church on Mother’s Day - it always being a Sunday. And of course, as a Catholic country Italy reveres the Madonna and child. In 1957 - 50 years after the institution of Mother’s Day in the USA - a priest in the hill town of Assisi decided that the day should be used to celebrate women and their contribution to family and community life. It was so popular that the following year, a petition was presented to Parliament and the second Sunday in May was declared officially “La Festa della Mamma”. And the rest is history.
The difference between Mother’s Day in Italy and the US is that it’s not the big commercial production to be found in the US. You may find cards in some shops in the larger cities, but you won’t find the kinds of massive displays of gifts everywhere. Instead, Mother’s Day in Italy is what it was always designed to be: a day for mothers to be both celebrated and appreciated. That’s not to say it’s not a big occasion though - it certainly is one of the most loved days in the Italian year. It’s a day when families come together from wherever they are to celebrate and look after their mothers. And everyone in the family, no matter where they live or what else they’re doing, is expected to be there. And if they can’t get home a phone call is a must. In fact, Italian phone companies record their highes volume of calls around Mother’s Day, as children young and old take the opportunity to express their appreciation to their mamma. On this day the mother is not allowed to do any housework or cooking. Breakfast will be made for her - generally fresh pastries and coffee. Young children will usually give homemade gifts of cards and fresh flowers and it’s a tradition for young children to write a poem in school, to be given on the day.
Lunch will be held either in the family home or, increasingly, at a local restaurant. This has become the most popular day of the year in Italy to dine out. The meal is always rounded off with a sweet cake, or cupcakes sometimes in the shape of a heart.
So, let’s celebrate Mother’s day this year in the Italian style. Forget the expensive gifts and cards. Make a meal for your mother, and a homemade card. And above all don’t let her do the dishes or cook the meal. HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to all. Stay safe and healthy.
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