Norwegian Language Blog

Mother’s Day in Norway Posted by on May 11, 2010 in Culture, Holidays, Norway and the world

Norwegians celebrate morsdag the second søndag i februar.  For those of you who aren’t aware, it was morsdag yesterday here in the U.S.  This year it happened to fall on the same day as Valentinsdag.  Although many countries in the world celebrate morsdag, it is arguably the most recognized in the U.S., the birthplace of the helligdag (holiday).  How many of you actually know the origins of morsdag?  I didn’t have a clue until I just did some research.  It’s quite an interesting story.

We can thank Anna Jarvis of West Virginia for her persistance in fighting for public recognition of mødre (mothers).  Her mother,  Anna Maria Reeves Jarvis, organized several Mother’s Day Work Clubs, in which she and her fellow female counterparts strove to forbedre (improve) helse (health) and sanitære forhold (sanitary conditions) in surrounding Virginia towns.  Jarvis sparked controversy by encouraging the Mother’s Day Work Clubs to work to forbedre both the Union and Confederate soldiers’ sanitære forholdene in den amerikanske borgerkrigen (the American Civil War)

Although Anna Jarvis, datter til (daughter of) Anna Maria Reeves Jarvis was never a mor herself, she cared deeply for her own mor; it was after her mor passed away that she began to campaign for this helligdag.  After about 4 years of promoting the creation of a morsdag, the 1st recognition of this helligdag was 102 years ago today, May 10, 1908 in Grafton, West Virginia.  In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson declared morsdag en offisiell helligdag.

Morsdag soon became such a commercialized helligdag that the founder, Anna Jarvis, expressed her disgust to the point that she was arrested protesting the commercialization and wished she hadn’t fought so hard to create this helligdag.

As for Norway, the first time morsdag was celebrated was in 1919 and it revolved mostly around religiøse organisasjoner.  Morsdag quickly evolved to become en familiedag (a family day) når mødre får blomstrer og noe søt å spise for eksempel (when mothers get flowers and something sweet to eat, for example).  Barn begynte å feire mor (Children began to celebrate mom) på skole (in school) by making kort og gaver (cards and gifts).  At this point in time, however, the tradisjon to feire morsdag på skole is gradually fading because of the reality of the many different household compositions throughout befolkningen (the population).

On this note, I must mention something interesting I read the other day in The ForeignerTradisjonelle eventyrer (Traditional fairytales) are to be phased out of the curriculum på barnehager (in kindergartens) in favor of sexually diverse stories that teach about kjønnidentitet (gender identity).  Instead of stories about princes saving princesses and falling in love with them, The Ministry of Children and Equality wants children to learn about strong women who save men and are in romantic relationships with other women or kings who would rather goof around with their children than rule the kingdom.

Either way, even though morsdag is highly commercialized and some children have 2 dads and no mom, it’s never a bad idea to feire din mor!

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About the Author: kari

I attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, where I majored in Norwegian and History. During college, I spent almost a year living in Oslo, Norway, where I attended the University of Oslo and completed an internship at the United States Embassy. I have worked for Concordia Language Villages as a pre-K Norwegian teacher and have taught an adult Norwegian language class. Right now, I keep up by writing this Norwegian blog for Transparent Language. Please read and share your thoughts! I will be continuing this blog from my future residence in the Norwegian arctic!


  1. Ingeborg:

    Is this curriculum change happening just in Norway, or all over Europe? One of the most interesting things for me about Norwegian fairytales in particular is that the woman is usually more intelligent and witty than in other English fairytales.

  2. Luiz Everardo Bezerra Lopes: