Mother's Day

Next Sunday, 19 March 2023

Mothering Sunday, more commonly known as Mother's Day, is observed in The UK every year on the fourth Sunday of Lent, which means it is a moveable feast. As such it is always three weeks before Easter Sunday. 

It is a day for celebrating mothers and showering them with gifts and treats. It is not a bank holiday, so businesses follow normal Sunday hours. 

A bright bunch of yellow daffodils on a wooden table, stems to the right.
Daffodils - a symbol, and a common gift on Mothering Sunday

The origins of Mothering Sunday

Celebrations of motherhood go back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. The Greeks had festivals honoring Rhea and Cybele, known as the mother goddesses, and the Romans celebrated mothers during the festival of Hilaria. 

The roots of Mothering Sunday can be found in the church. It was originally a day when Christians would return to their 'mother' church, the church in their hometown, or where their family worshiped. As such it also became a time when wealthy landowners would give their younger servants the day off so that they could go home to attend church with their families. 

In time, it evolved to become a church celebration of mothers and motherhood. It was a day when the church would pray for mothers and hand out flowers, commonly daffodils, to not only the mothers in the church but all women. It also became a more secular occasion, a time when people would not return home to attend church, but return home to spend time with their mothers. 

Refreshment Sunday

Mothering Sunday is referred to as a refreshment Sunday or a Rose Sunday. These are the  Sundays in Lent when fasting is relaxed, and therefore those who are observing Lent are able to eat/drink or partake in whatever activity they had given up. In the past, this meant that those who returned home to spend the day with their family could still celebrate the event with food and drink. 

Mothering Sunday in culture

Mothering Sunday has been a subject of art, poetry, and film in the past. In 1928 A carol for Mothering Sunday was written by George Hare Leonard, and published in the Oxford Book of Carols. 

It is the day of all the year,
Of all the year the one day,
When I shall see my Mother dear
And bring her cheer,
A-Mothering on Sunday.

The first verse of 'It is the day of all the year' by George Hare Leonard

In 2021 Mothering Sunday was the name given to a film in which the plot followed in part the tradition of the wealthy allowing their servants the time to return home. 

Modern Mother’s Day

Whilst it is a different celebration to Mother's day in America, the American version has had an influence on the much longer celebrated Mothering Sunday. In the Uk, Its name has evolved over time and now the day is more commonly referred to as Mother's day. The day has also become more commercialized, and so people treat their mothers to flowers, chocolates, jewelry, and even spa visits. 

Cards have also become a huge part of Mother’s Day, with card companies selling cards with lovely Mother’s Day quotes. Because of this, the holiday has become the third-largest day for card sending in the country.

Some traditions still remain, however, such as the tradition of baking a Simnel Cake, a fruit cake with a layer of marzipan running through the middle, over the top, and well as balls of marzipan for decoration. The cake is now commonly associated with Easter.

A cake decorated with a yellow ribbon, balls of marzipan and little flurry chick ornaments
The Simnel Cake - a traditional Mothering Sunday treat. image by @Petts, (CC2.0, unedited).

No matter whether the day is referred to as Mothering Sunday or as Mother's Day, the principle message remains the same, respect and appreciate your mother and other women in your life who have helped you to become the person you are.

Mother's Day