We all know how good mothers are at multi-tasking – they have to be – but did you know that Mother’s Day itself has done some multi-tasking in its time, by representing all sorts of mothers?
Mother’s Day originated in the Middle Ages and is always on the fourth Sunday of Lent, the period leading up to Easter. Back in those times, Christians would visit their ‘mother’ church, the one they were baptised in, the local parish church or the nearest cathedral. People going on this journey were said to be ‘mothering’ which is why the proper name for the day is Mothering Sunday.
During the centuries when rich households had numerous servants, the girls and women among them would be allowed to return home on Mothering Sunday to visit their mothers. Although it’s difficult to believe, sometimes it was the only holiday they were allowed in the whole year.
The USA’s Mother’s Day, which is on the second Sunday in May, was started by a very enterprising woman from Philadelphia called Anna Jarvis and was officially recognised as a national holiday in 1914.
An English contemporary of Anna Jarvis, Constance Adelaide Smith, was inspired by Anna’s Mother’s Day idea and decided to re-launch Mothering Sunday in the UK. She widened the concept of ‘mother’ to include not only Mother Church, but also ‘mothers of earthly homes’, Mary, mother of Jesus, and Mother Nature. With the current climate crisis, it is surely a good idea to remind ourselves of the vital importance of Mother Nature!
Constance’s relaunch worked – by the 1950s, Mothering Sunday was widely celebrated in the British Isles and elsewhere.
Another name for Mothering Sunday is Refreshment Sunday as, coming in the middle of the fasting period of Lent, people were allowed to break their fasts on this day. Because of this, giving special cakes to mothers has long been associated with Mothering Sunday. Simnel cake, also a traditional Easter cake, was often given, and in some places mothering buns. These were plain, yeast-leavened buns, iced and sprinkled with hundreds and thousands, and were eaten for breakfast on that day.
This year Mothering Sunday is on the 14th March when mothers will be pampered and treated to visits and gifts, although the visits may be trickier at the moment. These days, partly due to American influence, Mothering Sunday has become much more commercial and now most people call it Mother’s Day. However, to all you mothers out there, whatever you call the day, and however you celebrate it, have a very happy time and enjoy the wonderful cake (perhaps a strawberry Fraisier?) that hopefully someone has bought you from 7Marvels!