The earliest celebration of Mother's Day can be traced back to the ancient Greeks, who honored Rhea, the mother of the gods. In 1600, the early Christians in England set aside a holiday to celebrate and honor Mary, mother of Jesus. By religious order, the holiday was expanded to include all mothers, and the day became known as Mothering Sunday. Here in the United States, Mother's Day was loosely inspired by this British celebration.
The first American Mother's Day was observed on May 10, 1908. A few years later, on May 9, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation declaring the second Sunday of May to be observed as Mother's Day. At the ceremony that day, there were large containers of white carnations set on the platform, and when the proclamation was signed, one white carnation was given to each person as a souvenir of Mother's Day.
I love Mother's Day, and I am so blessed to still have my mother with me—she is my best friend in the world. No one understands or loves me more than my mom, no matter what crazy thing I did when I was growing up. Even now, I still go to her with my harebrained ideas on all the things I want to do next!
My mother married my father when she was 14 and my dad was 24 years old. Yes, it's true. I've heard the story so many times growing up that it has become a movie in my head, filled with wild drama, romance, scandal, intrigue and families at odds with one another.
During World War II, my father was stationed in Italy, where my mother was born. They met in the city of Pisa, where my grandmother and mother were living. My grandmother, who was gorgeous, was attending a dance with her family that the G.I.s held on Saturday nights. My grandmother brought my mom with her that night, and as my mom sat listening to the jitterbug and watching everyone dance, she caught the eye of a tall, dark, extremely handsome young G.I. with wavy, black hair. She was instantly smitten!
I'm still a little spotty on how she managed to sneak a dance with my future dad, but by the time my father left for the States after the war, he took his young bride with him and left behind a family divided. I could write a novel about what happened after that fateful dance—it's the kind of story you only see in old Hollywood movies. But this wasn't Hollywood—it was real, and they stayed married for 63 years until my poppa passed away less than a year ago.
Learn what it was like for Cristina growing up with her mother
Years ago, my parents were children raising children—my mom had me when she was 17, followed by my sister, Diana, and brother, Gino. We didn't have much money growing up, but my mom made sure we didn't go without. She sewed my sister and me beautiful clothes and even made matching outfits for our dolls! Our home was always filled with music, family, friends and the smell of unbelievable cooking coming from the kitchen. I especially loved Sundays because that's when we would have company over and my mom would wake up early to prepare dinner, which always included pasta and sauce. My dad would put on records, and we would listen to Tony Bennett and Mario Lanza. To this day, when I hear Tony Bennett's voice, I can literally smell sauce!
My mom sacrificed a great deal for all of us when we were growing up, and I only learned and understood about her life when I became an adult. My mother would tell me the real story of how it was for her when she first arrived in this country not being able to speak the language and starting a new life away from her family, friends and life as she knew it. I never knew the hardship she endured because there was never a clue on her smiling face.
Through it all—raising three kids and seeing us all grow up and have families of our own—my mother has experienced great joy, and she is proud of all three of us and her grandchildren. She has taught us all the power of prayer, the power of family and the power of unconditional love. She instilled in us loyalty, dignity and a great work ethic. She taught by example and sometimes worked two jobs at a time so my brother, sister and I could go to the best schools and take piano and dance lessons and more. In fact, my mother would literally drag me to the opera, and as we took our seats in the back of the house, I wanted to kill myself because I was so bored; that is, until one day while attending, I had huge tears rolling down my face from the way the music moved my soul.
My mother is only 17 years older than me, and we are best friends since we are so close in age! I see her slowing down a bit, and to be honest, I'm a bit unnerved by it. It makes me stop and think about a lot of things. She has always been the rock in the family, and that's one of the reasons I look forward to Mother's Day, to honor her.
See what meals Cristina is serving for her family this Mother's Day
I always look forward to Mother's Day for a lot of reasons; for one thing, I am a mother. My children are the first thing I think about when I get up and the last thing I think about at night before I sleep. I look forward to their phone calls, visits, emails, cards, hugs and kisses. I've kept all the cards and letters they have given me over the years, and my favorites are the Mother's Day cards they would write. I just recently read them all again while I was spring-cleaning my closet a couple of weeks ago. I sat on the floor and read them all again like it was the first time—they made me smile and laugh out loud.
I'm happy there is day set aside to honor moms. I love to honor mine, and I love and drink in every moment of Mother's Day when my children are beside me because they just want me to have the best day ever—and I do!
The best and most memorable Mother's Day gifts, to me, were the homemade gifts and handwritten letters, and, oh yes, coffee and juice in bed along with a "family sandwich." What's a family sandwich? Well, when our girls were small, they would climb into the bed with us and cuddle in between Tony and me. Tony and I were the bread and the girls, the delicious insides! We would hug tightly and squeal, "family sammich!" (that's how they pronounced "sandwich" before they could say it the right way). We still make "family sammiches" on Mother's Day, only now it's a challenge since Alex is 6'1" and Ari is 5'8"!
This Mother's Day, I'm planning a whole menu for our entire family to celebrate, to honor our mom and for all the moms in our family!