10 Things You Might Not Know About Mother's Day

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iStock

Everyone knows Mother's Day is the day to shower your mom with affection (and maybe take her out for a nice meal). But just how many people plan to do that each year? Here are a few facts and stats about Mother's Day that might surprise you.

1. THE DAY WAS FIRST SUGGESTED BY A FAMOUS POET.

The woman who first proposed Mother's Day in 1870 was the same woman who wrote the lyrics to "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." After the Civil War, writer Julia Ward Howe suggested a Mother's Day to recognize peace and protest war. She organized annual events in Boston to honor mothers, but despite her work (and her moving "Mother's Day Proclamation"), nothing official came of her efforts.

2. THE FOUNDER FOUGHT BACK.

Although Julia Ward Howe first suggested a day for mothers, Anna Jarvis (who had no children of her own) campaigned for a national day of observance for moms, in remembrance of her own mother, Ann Jarvis, who had spent years working to provide resources for poor mothers in West Virginia. Mother's Day became a designated holiday in 1914, but within a few years, Jarvis became disgusted with how commercial the day had become and started a petition to rescind the holiday. (That clearly didn't come to pass.)

3. PICK UP THE PHONE.

child holding cut-out heart
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Call volume in the U.S. goes up 11 percent on Mother’s Day, and a recent study suggests that the more widespread use of cell phones has greatly increased the amount of contact adult children have with their mothers. So don't look like a slacker: Your mom definitely expects to hear from you, and not just with a text.

4. EXPECT OVERCROWDED RESTAURANTS.

If you're thinking about taking your mom out to eat, you might want to consider which time of the day will have enough open tables. Mother's Day is the busiest day of the year for restaurants, with some 80 million adults dining out (which tops even Valentine's Day). Nearly half of those people will be out for dinner, as opposed to lunch or brunch, so if you'd like to treat your mom to her favorite cuisine, perhaps go earlier in the day.

5. THE JEWELRY AND SPA SERVICES INDUSTRIES GET BOOSTS TOO.

You know you need to get your mom a gift, but what to buy? According to the National Retail Federation, $5 billion will be spent on jewelry this year (accounting for 36 percent of shoppers). Another 37 percent of consumers will purchase clothing, 15 percent get electronics, and 24 percent will spend nearly $2 billion on spa services for their mothers. But if you want to let mom pick out her own gift, you aren't alone—45 percent of surveyed consumers said they planned to go the gift card route.

6. THE FLOWER INDUSTRY IS THE BIG WINNER.

Mother's Day carnations in planters
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Carnations quickly became the symbol of Mother’s Day (supposedly representing the tears of Mary when Jesus was crucified) when it began in 1914, and soon the floral industry promoted the idea of wearing a red carnation to honor a person's living mom or a white carnation to honor a mother who had passed. Although this tradition has faded, 76 percent of moms are currently hoping to get flowers from their kids or loved ones on this special day. Their odds are good—Mother's Day is the number one day for floral sales, and the NRF's survey revealed that a whopping 69 percent of people were planning to buy flowers this year.

7. MOMS AROUND THE WORLD ARE RECOGNIZED WITH DAYS THROUGHOUT THE YEAR.

Many countries have a Mother’s Day, though they don't always fall on the second Sunday in May like it does in the U.S., Australia, China, Japan, and India. Flowers and gifts are a worldwide tradition for the day, but in Thailand parades are held and jasmine is commonly given as a gift. In Serbia, moms are tied up with rope or ribbon until they give sweets and gifts to their children (which seems to contradict the entire concept of the holiday).

8. MANY PEOPLE HONOR MULTIPLE MOTHERS IN THEIR LIFE.

breakfast foods with "I love you Mom" card
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You’re probably planning on sending your own mom a card, but are you going to send cards to other mothers as well? The average consumer buys 2.8 Mother’s Day cards, so most people are buying for more than just their own mom (like, say, for their grandmothers, wives, mothers-in-law, sisters, or friends). In fact, 57 percent of mothers says they’ve received Mother’s Day gifts from non-family members.

9. STATISTICS SHOW DADS NEED TO STEP IT UP.

While everyone knows you need to get something for your mother, 47 percent of moms think that dads should buy the mother of their kids a gift. Don’t hold your breath though moms: Only 6 percent of dads agree!

10. MOMS STILL COME OUT AHEAD FOR MOTHER'S DAY.

Even if fathers might not be the ones driving floral sales on Mother's Day, if there were a monetary competition between the parental appreciation days, mothers would win outright. On average, people spend $126 on Father’s Day compared to $172 on Mother’s Day. Sorry, Dad.

What’s the Origin of Jack-O’-Lanterns?

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iStock/matejmo

The term "jack-o'-lantern" was first applied to people, not pumpkins. As far back as 1663, the term meant a man with a lantern, or a night watchman. Just a decade or so later, it began to be used to refer to the mysterious lights sometimes seen at night over bogs, swamps, and marshes.

These ghost lights—variously called  jack-o’-lanterns, hinkypunks, hobby lanterns, corpse candles, fairy lights, will-o'-the-wisps, and fool's fire—are created when gases from decomposing plant matter ignite as they come into contact with electricity or heat or as they oxidize. For centuries before this scientific explanation was known, people told stories to explain the mysterious lights. In Ireland, dating as far back as the 1500s, those stories often revolved around a guy named Jack.

LEGEND HAS IT

As the story goes, Stingy Jack—often described as a blacksmith—invited the devil to join him for a drink. Stingy Jack didn't want to pay for the drinks from his own pocket, and convinced the devil to turn himself into a coin that could be used to settle the tab. The devil did so, but Jack skipped out on the bill and kept the devil-coin in his pocket with a silver cross so that the devil couldn’t shift back to his original form. Jack eventually let the devil loose, but made him promise that he wouldn’t seek revenge on Jack, and wouldn’t claim his soul when he died.

Later, Jack irked the devil again by convincing him to climb up a tree to pick some fruit, then carved a cross in the trunk so that the devil couldn’t climb back down (apparently, the devil is a sucker). Jack freed him again, on the condition that the devil once again not take revenge and not claim Jack’s soul.

When Stingy Jack eventually died, God would not allow him into heaven, and the devil, keeping his word, rejected Jack’s soul at the gates of hell. Instead, the devil gave him a single burning coal to light his way and sent him off into the night to “find his own hell.” Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has supposedly been roaming the earth with it ever since. In Ireland, the ghost lights seen in the swamps were said to be Jack’s improvised lantern moving about as his restless soul wandered the countryside. He and the lights were dubbed "Jack of the Lantern," or "Jack O'Lantern."

OLD TALE, NEW TRADITIONS

The legend immigrated to the new world with the Irish, and it collided with another old world tradition and a new world crop. Making vegetable lanterns was a tradition of the British Isles, and carved-out turnips, beets, and potatoes were stuffed with coal, wood embers, or candles as impromptu lanterns to celebrate the fall harvest. As a prank, kids would sometimes wander off the road with a glowing veggie to trick their friends and travelers into thinking they were Stingy Jack or another lost soul. In America, pumpkins were easy enough to come by and good for carving, and got absorbed both into the carved lantern tradition and the associated prank. Over time, kids refined the prank and began carving crude faces into the pumpkins to kick up the fright factor and make the lanterns look like disembodied heads. By the mid-1800s, Stingy Jack’s nickname was applied to the prank pumpkin lanterns that echoed his own lamp, and the pumpkin jack-o’-lantern got its name.

Toward the end of the 19th century, jack-o’-lanterns went from just a trick to a standard seasonal decoration, including at a high-profile 1892 Halloween party hosted by the mayor of Atlanta. In one of the earliest instances of the jack-o’-lantern as Halloween decor, the mayor’s wife had several pumpkins—lit from within and carved with faces—placed around the party, ending Jack O’Lantern’s days of wandering, and beginning his yearly reign over America’s windowsills and front porches.

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A Finnish Tourism Company Is Hiring Professional Christmas Elves

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iStock.com/kali9

Finland isn't quite the North Pole, but it will be home to a team of gainfully employed Christmas elves this holiday season. As Travel + Leisure reports, the Scandinavian country's Lapland Safaris is looking for elves to get guests into the holiday spirit.

Lapland Safaris is a tourism company that organizes activities like snowmobiling, Northern Lights-gazing, skiing, and ice-fishing. The elf employees will be responsible for leading guests to their buses and conveying important information, all while spreading holiday cheer. The job listing reads, "An Elf is at the same time an entertainer, a guide, and a mythical creature of Christmas."

Each Lapland Safari elf will receive training through Arctic Hospitality Academy prior to starting the job. There, they will learn "the required elfing and communication skills." Training will be conducted in English, but candidates' knowledge of French, Spanish, or German is a plus.

To apply, aspiring elves can fill out and submit this form through Lapland Safaris's website. The gig lasts from November 2018 to the beginning of next year, with employees having the option to work at any of the company's Finnish destinations (Santa's workshop is unfortunately not included on the list).

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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