The Mother’s Days of Central Europe

People across the countries of Central Europe embrace the spring by celebrating their nearest and dearest – parents, in a series of more or less official holidays. What are the dates to look forward to?

Close-up of woman receiving greeting card from her daughter on Mother's day.
Photo: iStock.com / Drazen Zigic

On one Polish Mother’s Day (26 May) years ago, a listener called into Polish Radio with a story. As a child, she lived with her parents in East Germany. One day, when she was in preschool, the teacher asked the children, “Who do you love most in the world.” The Polish listener, who happened to be the only Polish child in the East German preschool, shouted, “Mommy!” Alas, she was alone in her sentiment as the other children had already wisened up to the answer the teacher was actually looking for: the “Great Revolutionary Leader Vladimir Lenin.”

From West Virginia, with love (literally)

The truth is that while political alignments are constantly in flux, family relations are constant – a fact that has surely been true since prehistoric times. In Central Europe, as well as in many other parts of the world, women are celebrated by their children for the arguable miracle of bringing them into the world. 

The custom seems to be rooted in the Christian movement, as the first modern idea of Mother‘s Day was supposedly conceived by American activist Anna Jarvis who, in 1907, encouraged the congregation of Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia, to celebrate mothers on the second Sunday of May. (A moveable date that still holds in the US.)

Of course, the date is arbitrary. Though, of course, if one were so inclined, it wouldn’t be that hard to pick a meaningful date. For example, 9 September is apparently the most popular day of the year to give birth. There are also existing celebrations for a variety of old-school maternity goddesses, as well as for the developed Christian cult of the Holy Mother of God. And then, there’s International Women’s Day on 8 March, which serves as the equivalent in some countries. 

However, it seems there’s just something about the month of May that reminds people how great their mothers are. Maybe it’s simply that it’s just a nice month when the countries farther north finally see some sun and the first signs of spring. Whatever the case, here are the days to observe in Central Europe.

Central European Mother’s Days Dates

  • Kicking off the season each year is Bulgaria, which, in Soviet style, prefers to treat Women’s Day on 8 March as a multi-purpose festival.
  • Slovenia also opts for March, though Mother’s Day has its own special day. It’s a movable feast held on the second Sunday of March, so it’s 12 March 2023, 11 March 2024, and 9 March 2025.
  • Across the remaining Three Seas Countries, buying your mother flowers is particularly advisable in May. First up are Lithuania, Hungary, and Romania, which celebrate on the first Sunday of the month. In 2023, it’s as late as it gets, happening on 7 May 2023. In upcoming years, the date will fall on 5 May 2024 and 4 May 2025.
  • A week later, on the second Sunday of May, Austria, Croatia, Czechia, Estonia, Latvia, and Slovakia toast to moms everywhere. In 2023, look for a nice gift and plan to take your mother out on 14 May. The following years are 12 May 2024 and 11 May 2025.
  • And then, there’s Poland, which rounds out the season with a fixed Mother’s Day date on 26 May. Interestingly enough, Poland is the only country in the world to use that date, which has been set in stone for over a century now, with no widely known reason.

Interestingly, many Central European countries, especially those that fell under Soviet rule, observe both Mothers’ Day and Women’s Day. Such is the case of Poland, which never got rid of 8 March despite its communist connotations. Also note that though some countries use the Julian calendar in their religious feasts, such as Christmas, they celebrate Mother’s Day as secular affairs according to the modern, Gregorian one.

Confusing as it may be, mothers are always worth the effort. (*And they’ll probably let you know if you miss it.) 

Przemysław Bociąga

is a Polish journalist and essayist based in Warsaw. An anthropologist and art historian by education, he specializes in combining cultural phenomena with compelling narrative. He has authored and co-authored several books covering lifestyle and history. The most recent of them is “Impeccable. The biography of masculine image”. He has contributed to many leading magazines, both in print and online, and teaches cultural anthropology to college students.

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