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Traditions Series: Mother’s Day and Father’s Day

Our Traditions Series continues with a journey to the origin of Mother's and Father's Day. Also, a new release of Beethoven sonatas.

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Celebrating our parents on special days is a relatively recent American tradition that began during the twentieth century.  This week on Harmonia, an exploration of the origins or each day with special music specially chosen for Mom and Dad.

The tradition of celebrating Mother’s Day began with a presidential proclamation. On May, 9, 1914, Woodrow Wilson declared it a national holiday. Twenty-four hours earlier Congress had passed a law, which set aside the second Sunday in May specifically for mothers.

Since Mother’s Day is a tradition that does not go back very far in history, we’ve specially chosen music in honor of our mothers.

One tradition that originates with Mother’s Day is the wearing of a carnation. The flower, usually white, symbolizes the purity of love that a mother has for her child. The custom was initiated in 1907 by Anna Jarvis who passed out five hundred carnations to every mother in the congregation of her own mother’s church. The deed was part of her life’s work to have a day that recognized women.

Like Mother’s Day, the day commemorating our fathers was made a national holiday within the 20th Century, albeit decades later. In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson declared Father’s Day to be observed on the third Sunday of June, but it wasn’t officially observed until six years later when Nixon was in office.

Although Father’s Day became a national holiday somewhat late in the 20th Century, the day had actually been celebrated in a less formal manner throughout America since Mother’s Day caught on decades earlier. First celebrated in West Virginia, the day took place in July and not in June.

Our new release of the week is volume six in fortepianist Ronald Brautigam’s ongoing endeavor to record Beethoven’s complete sonatas.

Here’s a video of a BBC documentary with Ronald Brautigam and the Orchestra of the Enlightenment performing a Mozart piano concerto:


The music heard in this episode was performed by John Potter, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, L’Arpeggiata, and The English Concert.

Bernard Gordillo

Bernard Gordillo was born in Managua, Nicaragua, and raised in New Orleans. He holds degrees from Centenary College of Louisiana, the Early Music Institute at Indiana University, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London). Bernard also writes and hosts the Harmonia Early Music Podcast.

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