Mother, May I? Yes, It's May!

May is Mental Health Month. It was first celebrated in 1949 as Mental Health Week in an effort to raise awareness about mental health disorders. In the 1960s, National Mental Health Association expanded the week into a month. This year’s theme is "social connectedness," which is an important component of maintaining mental health and wellness.


It is also Older Americans Month. When Older Americans Month was first established in 1963, President John F. Kennedy designated May as Senior Citizens Month. In 1980, operating on the principle of political correctness, President Jimmy Carter changed the designation to "Older Americans Month." Traditionally, every year, the president has issued a proclamation asking that the nation pay tribute to older people in the community.


At the time it was first established, there were only 17 million people in the country who had reached the age of 65. In 2006, that number had swollen to 37.3 million. 9.1 million of them were military veterans. Some of famous senior citizens you may recognize are Paul McCartney, who wrote "When I'm 64" when he was yet a teenager; Bob Dylan; Al Pacino, James Earl Jones, Elizabeth Taylor, and Jack Nicholson.


Keith Richards is not yet 65 and that hardly seems right.


Cinco de Mayo (which translates to "May 5th") is celebrated in some parts of Mexico. Cinco de Mayo is observed in the United States and other locations around the world as a celebration of Mexican culture and pride. The holiday commemorates the first victory of Mexican forces over French forces in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. This victory delayed the French invasion of Mexico City, but a year later, the French occupied Mexico. The French were eventually defeated and expelled in 1867.


Cinco de Mayo is sometimes confused with Mexico's Independence Day, but that is not so. Mexico's Independence Day is actually September 16, which is the most important national patriotic holiday in Mexico.


On a different front entirely, Towel Day is celebrated May 25 in tribute to Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Mr. Adams, who died in 2001, is still revered by many of his fans, who celebrate the humor that the author brought into their lives. On Towel Day, they carry towels with them throughout the day. Why a towel? Well, it's a rather lengthy explanation, but those who have read the book understand the significance.


And of course, no essay on the month of May would be complete without the mention of Mother's Day. In the United States, Mother's Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in May.


Most of us have heard or read that Mother's Day was invented by greeting card companies as a way of selling their products. Well, it turns out that was an urban legend.


It was actually first championed by social activist Julia Ward Howe shortly after the American Civil War. She intended her "Mother's Day for Peace" to be a call to rally women against war. In 1870, she wrote a Mother's Day proclamation. Ms. Howe had gained fame 12 years prior to her proclamation when she wrote "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."


She had very limited success. It was celebrated in 1873 by women's groups in 18 cities. Ms. Howe funded most of the celebrations, but once she stopped picking up the tab, most of those cities stopped celebrating. Boston was the only city still observing the remembrance for the next 10 years.


And then there was Anna Reeves Jarvis, who organized a group of women to tend to the needs of both Confederate and Union soldiers during the Civil War. After the war, she led a group of women in West Virginia to celebrate an adaptation of the holiday. Ms. Jarvis and her group used their version, called "Mother's Friendship Day" in order to re-unite families and friends which had been on different sides during the Civil War.


She died in 1905, and her daughter, whose name was also Anna Jarvis, began lobbying for an official Mother's Day in honor of peace and as a memorial to her mother. In May of 1908, the first official Mother's Day celebration took place in Grafton, West Virginia and in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Anna the Younger arranged for each mother in attendance to be given two carnations. Carnations were her mother's favorite flower. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation making the second Sunday in May the national observance of Mother's Day.


In parts of the United States it is customary to plant tomatoes outdoors after Mother's Day (and not before).


Additional resources for May: