Indonesian Mother’s Day: Better Than The Western Mother’s Day

As some of us know very well, mother’s day falls on different dates for different countries. In Indonesia, it falls on the 22 Dec every year. That is today.

As an Indonesian, I have said “happy mother’s day” many times since I was a little girl. To be quite honest, I couldn’t wait for the day to come where I would be the one receiving the mother’s day wishes, and that day was 22 Dec 2007. I was pregnant for the first time, and I received a text from my sister saying: “Happy mother’s day!”  and then another one from my bff. Yes I got 2 wishes that day, not as many as I have wanted it to be, but it was great. After all I was only 3 months pregnant, therefore not many people knew I deserved mother’s day wishes. Although to be even more honest, I told my husband, early December that year, that Indonesian mother’s day falls on 22 Dec, and I had hoped for him to say happy mother’s day to me, but he didn’t. For 2 reasons: he forgot (typical men!), and he didn’t feel the need to say it.

But as time unraveled itself, I had a miscarriage just 1 week after my very first mother’s day. At late March 2008, we were in UK, and the mother’s day in UK was also late March, but I was not pregnant and I didn’t have any child either, therefore I didn’t deserve to receive mother’s day wishes. As sad as it was for me, I tried to still celebrate motherhood for those who were mothers.

So during that particular mother’s day in UK, we went out to do some shopping.  Every single time I saw or interacted with a woman with child(ren), I always said “Happy mother’s day!” with a big smile on my face. But the reactions I got from those women were not quite as I expected. They all looked at me as if I just asked them to give me a bag full of gold coins. Rather like a horror look or a “you are strange” look. I was bemused. “What is going on in this world…?”

I got pregnant again in June 2008, and so my 2nd mother’s day finally came. It was 22 Dec 2008. I was 8 months pregnant, we were living in Belgium. A week before the date, I told my husband that Indonesian mother’s day would come soon, to which he responded casually “Oh really?”. I waited for the day expectantly. But 22 Dec came and went without any single person wishing me happy mother’s day. This time, I confronted my husband “It was mother’s day yesterday! But you didn’t give me any wishes!”. With a confused look on his face he flatly said “But you are not my mother”. I gave him a horrified look. “What is going on in this world…?”

For Chirstmas that year, we drove from Belgium to UK, to celebrate it with Bryn (my in law) and Sam (my husband’s son from his prev marriage). Christmas morning I told Sam that it was mother’s day in Indonesia 3 days ago (hoping I would get some belated happy mother’s day wishes from him). Sam said… “Oh nice, did your baby get you a nice greeting card?”. Haha… I laughed to that. It was a joke, you see… my baby was still inside my belly! But still… “Am I missing something here…?”

Later on… in 2009… I learned that within the western custom one says “happy mother’s day” to one’s mother, in Indonesia we say “happy mother’s day” to all mothers. Major difference! Then I knew why those women looked at me funny when I said happy mother’s day to them. I am not their child! Then I realized why my husband never understood it when I gave hints to him that I wanted him to wish me happy mother’s day. He is not my child! And for the same reason, Sam made the joke about the baby who was still inside my tummy! Duuuuhhh…..!!!

The western people since a long time ago made it specific that the apostrophe (=tanda petik atas) in mother’s day should be before the S, and not after the S (as in mothers’), to signify that the day was dedicated for singular mother, your own mother, not for plural mothers which is all mothers in the world.

Still, I don’t quite understand this idea. Why only to your own mother? Is the quality of the sentiment reduced when you wish a happy mother’s day to not only your mother but also to all mothers in the world? Does it mean less for our mothers if we also celebrate other’s mothers? I don’t think so… Then I can conclude that the way Indonesians deal with mother’s day is better than those of the western societies.

Happy mother’s day to all Indonesian mothers…! And for mothers of the western world, you should wait to get it from your child(ren) on the appropriate date. 🙂

Lot’s of love.

Dian Retno Wulandari. A child to my mother, and a mother to my child.

PS: For the first time ever, my husband remembers that it’s Indonesian mother’s day today (without any cue from me). He and Alix even made a mother’s day card for me. Oh… bless them. He said if he’s not too busy with work or study, he would take me out to movie and dinner this evening. I hope we can watch Tangled (animation, Mandy Moore), but I know he wants to watch Unstoppable (Denzel Washington).

PPS: Most countries (like USA, Ghana, Japan, Belgium, Malaysia, Turkey, etc…) celebrate mother’s day on the 2nd Sunday of May. UK celebrates mother’s day on the 4th Sunday of Lent


8 responses to “Indonesian Mother’s Day: Better Than The Western Mother’s Day

  1. wonderful blog topic ! love it and the clash of cultures, now I have a different feel about it tho, I of course try to grace my mom with a gift or outing for her special day but I also extend the wishes to all mother’s I know. All my friends do it too, I don’t know it was just an automatic thing we did, still do.

    wishing you the best 🙂

  2. – you’re being productive in writing blog is intimidating me 🙂
    – because basicly, Indonesian celebrate the mother’s day based on a conference of women on 22 december. i never know the history of other countries’ mother’s day… (do you know?)

  3. hehehe lucu 🙂

    (Lha… aku ngga budhal2 nggawe blog reeeekk…)

    anyway… happy belated mothers day! (maaf kemarin miminak m*ncr*t ngga kepikiran ngucapin hari ibu) :*

    Smooch smooch :*:*:*

  4. I will say Happy Mothers Day to you! Beautiful custom to wish to all mothers…
    And you made me laugh today..because Men are oblivious the world over… 🙂 Somethings are the same everywhere!

  5. I think that saying happy mother’s day to all mother’s is a wonderful idea for any mother’s day. In my family I have always given cards to my mother, grandmother, and aunt on mother’s day…because they are all mothers and have been important women in my life. And that’s here in USA. Thanks for giving me a different view on mother’s day!

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