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Matronalia - the Roman Festival of Motherhood

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Matronalia - the Roman Festival of Motherhood

Spring is a time to celebrate motherhood.

Image (c) Getty Images

In ancient Rome, the holiday of Matronalia was celebrated each year at the beginning of March. This annual "festival of women" was held in honor of Juno Luciana, a goddess who watched over married women and those in childbirth. She was in charge of newborn infants, and a woman in labor might make offerings to her so that she would have a safe delivery of a healthy child. Gifts were exchanged, and everyone treated the ladies exceptionally well on this day -- it was a bit like a women's version of Saturnalia.

Later on, Matronalia evolved into Mother's Day in Europe, and was shifted to the fourth Sunday of Lent. During the Middle Ages, those who had moved away from home would return on this day to their "mother" church, visiting their families who still remained in the village. Servants were allowed to pick flowers from their masters' gardens, and given the day off to return home; hence, the custom of bringing one's mother some flowers on Mother's Day.

In the United States, Mother's Day actually falls in May, and is held in honor of humanitarian work carried out by women during the Civil War.

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