Mothering Sunday is the fourth Sunday of Lent, falling this year on Sunday 14th March. Although it’s often called Mothers’ Day it has no connection with the American festival of that name. Traditionally, it was a day when children, mainly daughters, who had gone to work as domestic servants were given a day off to visit their mother and family. Today it is a day when children give presents, flowers, and home-made cards to their mothers.
The concept of a national day to honour one’s Mother was created by Anna Jarvis, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Following the death of her mother, Anna Maria Reeves Jarvis, in 1905, Anna Jarvis dedicated herself to to establishing Mother’s Day as a national, and later an international, holiday.
The first Mother’s Day was celebrated in Grafton, West Virginia, on May 12th 1907. The idea of Anna Jarvis, who passed out 500 white carnations at her mother’s church following her death. She dedicated herself to making Mother’s Day a recognized holiday, a goal that was realised when President Woodrow Wilson declared it so in 1914.
Anna Jarvis herself, rather ironically, never became a mother and never married. She chose a Sunday for the day because she wanted it to be a “holy” day, not a holiday, and chose the second Sunday in May (the date Mother’s Day is celebrated in the United States) because it was the anniversary of the death of her own beloved mother.
Mothering Sunday, in Britain, is essentially equivalent to the more modern Mother’s Day and the two terms have become interchangeable over recent years. The history of the two, however, is quite different.
Religious festivals celebrating motherhood have existed for thousands of years; in the Roman religion the festival was in honour of the mother goddess Cybele. As Europe converted to Christianity, celebrating mothers became part of the church calendar as the fourth Sunday in Lent, to honour the Virgin Mary and the Mother Church.
Other names given to this festival include Simnel Sunday and Rose Sunday. Simnel Sunday is named after the practice of baking Simnel cakes to celebrate the reuniting of families during Lent. Rose Sunday refers to the tradition of posies of flowers being distributed to mothers.
In modern times, the day is a celebration of thanks to Mothers, and it is traditional for Mothers to have the ‘day off’ from household work, and be looked after for the day. Although the notion that it is mothers that should be solely responsible for the ‘house work’ is somewhat outdated too, thankfully!
This Mothers’ Day, be sure to give your Mum that extra needed skype, zoom, facetime, or telephone call to remind her how loved she is.