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Mother’s Day around the world – in Queens

If you have any doubt that mothers are treasured all around the world, take a stroll around downtown Flushing, Elmhurst or anywhere in Queens this Mother’s Day and see diverse families out together, two, three or even four generations going into a restaurant, carrying flowers.

“We usually take the mother and the grandmother and have a gathering for lunch or dinner, like a family reunion,” said Joyce Tang, a professor of sociology at Queens College.

“We don’t usually give gifts, but we buy flowers. Flowers mean love, caring and compassion,” she said. “The idea is to get together, to show appreciation for what the mother has done for the family.”

As much as they can, Chinese Americans celebrate Mother’s Day on the traditional American date of the second Sunday in May, which this year falls on May 10, Tang said. Sometimes they have to celebrate a week or so in advance, if the boss won’t give them that Sunday off, she added.

In Japan, people also celebrate Mother’s Day on the second Sunday of May, following the U.S. custom since after World War II, according to Miki Makihara, a professor of anthropology at Queens College, noting that there is a small Japanese−American community in Astoria.

In Korea, there is a Parents’ Day on May 8.

“I think everybody adopts the American holiday,” said Ruben Quiroz, president of AcciÓn Latina, a community−based organization in Corona that helps Hispanic immigrants. “The only day I see that they do celebrate their own Mother’s Day is the Dominicans,” he said. “There are mothers who celebrate the holiday American style and Dominican style — they get two presents.”

Mercedes Lopez, the administrative assistant at the Queen of Peace parish in Kew Gardens Hills, said she thinks that “if they’re in the United States, they celebrate it here. In the Dominican Republic, it’s the last Sunday in May, but I don’t celebrate it then; I celebrate it on the American day.”

In Mexico, Mother’s Day is celebrated on May 10, Lopez added, no matter what day of the week it falls on.

In this country, proclaiming a day to honor mothers got off to a rocky start. After years of campaigning for a national Mother’s Day by social activists dating back to the late 1800s, in 1914 President Woodrow Wilson finally declared the second Sunday of May the official national date for the holiday. Now it is celebrated in more than 40 countries.

“Mother’s Day is a very important day for Latinos,” said Quiroz, who is from Honduras. “Our mothers are like the Virgin. We adore our mothers. And we are more loyal to her than to our fathers.”

He said he and his brothers will take their mother out for breakfast, and later, “all my brothers and our wives and children will eat a big lunch.” Usually they choose one of their homes for the lunch, he added. Everyone lives near Corona, except one brother who comes from Albany for the occasion. Most important, he said, is not to let their mother cook that day. “My mother is very special,” he said.

Some Queens residents celebrate both the special day from their homeland and the American Mother’s Day. One of them is Viktar Amelyanchyk of Ridgewood, who came here from Belarus with his wife, Olga, and their two daughters in 2002.

Back home, March 8 is the day, but it is called International Women’s Day rather than Mother’s Day. On that day, Amelyanchyk took “all my girls” out to dinner at a Polish restaurant on Fresh Pond Road, where he said the food was close to their national food. Usually on March 8 in Belarus and Russia, where he also has lived, men cook for women, he said.

At the Ridgewood restaurant, “we saw a lot of women, more women than men.” He recalled standing in line to buy flowers that day, and plans to do so again this month.

“Definitely I recognize it,” he said of the American Mother’s Day. “My daughters will buy cards, and small gifts.”

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