Mum, You’re The Best
By Robert Veitch
Celebrate your mother this March 15th, from a posy of flowers to a special lunch out, let her know what an amazing woman she is.
Mother’s Day and Mothering Sunday appear as two interchangeable terms, but when looking beyond the similarity of the names they actually have very little in common at all.
Mothering Sunday has roots in Christian tradition, falling annually on the fourth Sunday in Lent, which is also known as Laetare Sunday. Laetare is Latin and translates as rejoice, making this mid-point in Lent a day of celebration and free of seasonal austerity.
During the sixteenth century, people began attending their largest local ‘Mother’ church for the Laetare service. Those who did this were said to have gone “a-mothering.” In the years that followed society changed, domestic servants would be given the day off and families would go a-mothering together. On the way to church small children would sometimes pick wild flowers to give as gifts to their own mothers. Over time, the giving of flowers was something that became part of the church service.
Very slowly over many years, the popularity of Mothering Sunday began to diminish and by the early twentieth century a revival was needed to reassert the significance of the day in the public consciousness. In 1914 a vicar’s daughter named Constance Penswick-Smith, began the Mothering Sunday Movement. It had some success, but maybe not as much as Constance would have liked.
Mother’s Day was created in 1908 by an American called Anna Jarvis, in memory of her own mother for “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world.” Her campaigning led to the introduction of a national holiday in the United States and the day was originally set aside for home-made cards and sentiment towards one’s own mother. It was viewed as a day off for mothers, a day to thank them for all their work throughout the year.
The arrival of American and Canadian forces during the Second World War generated interest for Mother’s Day in the United Kingdom, as these soldiers had brought their traditions with them, and the fourth Sunday of Lent became the day on which it was celebrated in the UK. After the War, the traditional elements of Mothering Sunday became merged and blurred with the imported traditions of Mother’s Day and since the 1950s the two celebrations have co-existed.
As a small child I remember sneaking into the kitchen with my dad to make a “surprise breakfast in bed” for my mother that would be accompanied with daffodils and a home-made card. My mum would pretend to be woken by my efforts, although of course she was already wideawake.
My mother remembers making afternoon tea and baking simnel cake for her mother for more years than she cares to remember. But in my grandmother’s case, it was off to church, a-mothering with the family and a posy of flowers. Some things change and some things stay the same, but at least on March 15th, I will know the difference.