In one country, mothers are literally buttered up on Mother's Day. And in another, they're tied to a chair until they pay a ransom of sweets to their children.
But, thankfully, most Americans celebrate the day by sending flowers, making a phone call or taking their mother out to a restaurant.
"If you go back to the beginning of Mother's Day, the women wore corsages," said Sharon Reynolds, owner of Owens Flower Shop, 846 Ind.
Wearing red carnations signified that your mother was living, while wearing white carnations meant that your mother had died, she said.
"When it very first started, that was traditional on Mother's Day for church," she said. "We kind of got away from that. I don't see that too much any more. Nowadays, not a lot of women dress up for church. and we don't do as many corsages as we used to."
Lynn Koenig, a Lawrence Public Library reference librarian and adult services coordinator, said the idea of a day to honor mothers dates back to 1907, at the suggestion of Anna M. Jarvis, of Philadelphia.
Jarvis first suggested that a Sunday in May be set aside to honor mothers, after her own mother died.
"She held a memorial service and asked those in attendance to wear white carnations, a gesture that soon became a tradition," according to the book "Holiday Festivals and Celebrations of the World Dictionary," by Sue Ellen Thompson and Barbara W. Carlson.
By 1914, President Woodrow Wilson had proclaimed a national day in honor of mothers on the second Sunday of May.
Giving flowers is still a big tradition.
"It is a big holiday for the floral industry," Reynolds said. "We do both fresh flowers and a lot of plants for Mother's Day."
A gift of jewelry is also fairly common, according to Erin Rosebaugh, a sales clerk at Kizer-Cummings Jewelry, 833 Mass.
"We have something called a mother and child pendant," Rosebaugh said. "It's a symbol of the bond between a mother and child. We have them plain. We have them with diamonds, and you can also order them and put the children's birthstones in it."
She said jewelry with a child's birthstone is also a traditional Mother's Day gift, as well as a locket that contain a photo of a child.
Here are some other international traditions associated with Mother's Day, according to Koenig.
¢ In Ethiopia, an event is held once a year called Antrosht, which means Mother's Day. It's in October or November, when the rainy season ends.
"Girls and boys come from all over to visit their parents, the girls bringing the necessary ingredients for a vegetable hash and boys bringing with them a bull or a lamb which they slaughter the next day so their mother can prepare a meat hash.
"The mother and the girls anoint themselves with butter, and songs celebrating family and tribal heroes are sung. The entire festival lasts two or three days and each time the children arrive and leave they kiss their parents and receive their blessing," Koenig said, reading from Thompson's and Carlson's book.
¢ The book also states that sometimes the day is confused with "Mothering Sunday," a British holiday that falls on the fourth Sunday in Lent. That was a day when employers let their servants go home to visit their mothers.
¢ Yugoslavia has several holidays involving mothers, children and families.
On a Sunday in early December known as Children's Day, or Dechiyi Dan, the tradition is that the parents tie the children up and refuse to release them until they promise to be good.
On the following Sunday, known as Materice, or Mother's Day, the children tie up their mother, releasing her only when she has agreed to give them sweets or other goodies, according to Thompson and Carlson's book.
On the next Sunday, known as Ochichi, or Father's Day, "the children try to tie their father to his chair or bed.
"The ransom, in this case, is higher, as the father must promise to buy them coats, shoes, dresses or other expensive items before they let him go. These promises usually appear a short time later as Christmas gifts."