They sailed across the Atlantic in multiple waves via chain migration. They cultivated the new land they fondly called home and raised their families there. My mom settled in Montreal in 1955, with great faith and golden dreams. She understood what it meant to be a foreigner in a foreign land, but she bravely laid the foundations, built a solid house, and never left home again. She learned to be welcoming and hospitable to all, and she greeted everyone with her legendary smile.
My mother was grateful that Canada adopted the daughters of Italy, and soon enough she would become a mother to Canadian daughters and sons. When she gave birth at the Royal Victoria Hospital, overlooking McGill University, her wish was that her children would study there; and one day, they would.
The second Sunday in May is observed in Canada, the USA, and increasingly in Italy, as Mother’s Day, La Festa Della Mamma. Italy’s original Mother’s Day is December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
Cultures throughout history have idolized the image of the Mother Goddess; the Cult of the Mother can be traced all the way back to Classical times. In Egyptian mythology, the goddess Isis was depicted as the divine mother of the pharaohs. She also symbolized magic and fertility, and was worshipped throughout Egypt. Her influence even carried over into Ancient Greece.
In Greek mythology, Hera, mother of the gods, is a central figure in many stories. In one in particular, the god Cronus and his wife Hera gave birth to the Cyclops, hideous one-eyed monsters. Cronus would cringe whenever he looked at them, but as a nurturing “magna mater,” Hera doled out her affection, regardless of their deformity. As a result of Cronus’ belief that his children would overthrow him as he had his own father, he swallowed them as soon as they were born. Hera, however, managed to protect one son, Zeus, by sending him away and by giving Cronus a stone wrapped in a blanket, which he devoured instead.
Finally, the Romans praised Terra Mater or Mother Earth until the rise of Christianity. Some scholars have argued that Christian beliefs and practices, such as the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary, were shaped by the Cult of Isis.
As we commemorate Mother’s Day, we joyfully gather to share sacred moments and precious memories, like many others who, throughout history, celebrated the great gift of motherhood.
This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Order of the Sons (Daughters) of Italy in Montreal. Our mothers were an integral part of that illustrious past. Let’s celebrate every mother with deference and love.
Dedicated to my mother Annunziata Camarda-Ierfino.