All week has been about one thing and one thing only in my English language classroom: Mothers!
Yes, the year has rolled around again for another Mother’s Day culture lesson, shared with my first and second year students. This has included a history of Mother’s Day, readings about mothers and making cards for Mom. Because my students will one day be teachers themselves, and because Mother’s Day has now become quite popular in China, learning about and understanding this American holiday is a must.
In 1914, with the great efforts of a Pennsylvanian school teacher, Ana Jarvis, and her supporters, President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. The date itself was the anniversary of Ana Jarvis’ mother, a woman she greatly admired and respected. Celebrations began in Ana Jarvis’ church worship service in 1908, where congregation members honored their moms that second Sunday in May. Later, Ana and others pressed for a national Mother’s Day and in just 6 short years, the holiday was instated.
Since then, Mother’s Day has spread around the world to be celebrated by many other countries, including Turkey, Finland, Belgium, Denmark and now even China.
Recognizing Mothers in America and China
In America, many of you are gearing up for Mother/Daughter/Friend banquets in your churches or communities. Restaurants are most likely hiring extra staff for the weekend. It’s reported that restaurants in America are the busiest on Mother’s Day, more than any other day of the year. 680 million cards are sent, flower shops are overrun with orders to moms and jewelry sales see a 7% increase. In other words, Mother’s Day in America is not only a hugely popular affair but a profitable one as well.
In China, things are still a bit low key for this newly adopted remembrance of moms. Most students just send a text message to their parent, wishing them a Happy Mother’s Day. However, with the recent increase of Internet buying by the college crowd, I do know several who have ordered things online for their moms, clothes more than anything else.
In My English Language Classroom
In my classroom, it’s card-making that has taken up the second half of my 2-hour periods with my students.
The students are first required to translate into Chinese the following: “Mother’s Day in America is the second Sunday in May. This is a day to thank mothers for all their love and care. Today in my English class, my teacher asked me to make a card for a mother. I chose you. Happy Mother’s Day!”
Volunteers write their sentences on the board, the class checks the translation to make sure it’s accurate and then everyone writes this translation on one side of the card. On the other side of the card, students write “Happy Mother’s Day!” in English.
After that, it’s time for decorating. Colored markers are passed around to make the card pretty, with an extra fun element as well: thousands of sticker selections to add a more festive look for Mom.
Anyone reading who faithfully sends stickers as requested on my newsletter wish list? In the below photos, those are your prized gifts being squealed over, snatched at, passed around and painstakingly positioned on cards going to Chinese mothers all over Sichuan. Many, many thanks for that!
Entering the Modern Age of Card-giving
21 years ago, when I first did this lesson in my Chinese classroom, the students brought envelopes to mail to their mothers while I provided the stamps. I remember some students who lived in distant areas didn’t even have house addresses. Packages or letters had to be sent to community centers in their areas for pick up.
But in today’s China, snail mail is no longer the best and only option to send greetings.
For our classroom Mother’s Day celebrations, my students now take cell phone pictures of themselves with their cards to send to Mom. Everyone in China has a cell phone, with some even having more than one. Even the elderly have picked up on the modern technology with great enthusiasm, learning how to text, take photos, save data, join chat groups and even surf the Net using their phones.
How China has changed!
The photos below will show you our card-making efforts and how we honor mothers in my Luzhou classroom. Here’s wishing those of you who are mothers, or take on the role of a mother for someone, a very Happy Mother’s Day and Ping An (peace) for your special Sunday in May.