Mother's Day or Mothering Sunday?
Should it be called Mothering Sunday or Mother's Day and is there any difference?
Mother's Day is an American invention which was started as a day of prayer and thanks for mothers and all they do for their families. It is held on the same day in May each year. Mothering Sunday, on the other hand, has been celebrated in the UK since the 16th century always on the 4th Sunday of Lent which changes each year depending on the date of Easter.
On most Sundays in the year, churchgoers would worship at their local church or 'daughter' church. Once a year however, on Mothering Sunday, people made a point of visiting their Mother Church, the original church in the area. The visit to the Mother Church would become an occasion for family reunions, especially for children who were working away from home. In times past, children as young as ten would leave home to find work.
Most historians think it was the return to Mother church which led to the tradition of children, particularly those working as domestic servants or apprentices, being given the day off to visit their mother and family. People who had visited the Mother Church were said to have gone a-mothering. As they walked along the country lanes on the journey home, children would pick wild flowers to give to their mother as a small gift, hence the tradition of giving flowers on Mothering Sunday.
Mothering Sunday was also known as Refreshment Sunday, because the fasting rules for Lent were relaxed on that day which falls half way through Lent. The Gospel was often the story of Jesus feeding the Five Thousand and the emphasis was on food. It would be quite common for the house cook where children were in service to bake a cake for them to take home with them for their mothers. Sometimes they also had gifts of eggs. The cake was often a Simnel cake, a fruit cake with a flat layer of marzipan on top and 11 marzipan balls. The 11 balls represented the disciples, minus Judas who betrayed Jesus. The name Simnel comes from the Latin word for fine and refers to the fine wheaten flour from which the cakes were made.
The following Mothering Sunday Carol was written by George Hare Leonard.
So I'll put on my Sunday coat,
And in my hat a feather,
And get the lines I writ by rote,
With many a note,
That I've a-strung together.
And now to fetch my wheaten cake
To fetch it from the baker,
He promised me, for mother's sake,
The best he'd bake
For me to fetch and take her.
The boys will all come home from town
Not one will miss that one day;
And every maid will bustle down
To show her gown
A-mothering on Sunday.
It is the day of all the year
Of all the year the one day;
And here come I, my mother dear,
And bring you cheer,
A-mothering on Sunday.
Happy Mothering Sunday!
Joy (Vicar of Eaton Bray with Edlesborough)
- February 2018
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About the Vicar's Letter
The Vicar's Letter has been appearing in the villages Focus magazine since August 2002.
The Rev. Peter Graham also used to publish The Vicar's Letter in the parish magazine of 1964. Please see the Vicar's Letter area for these.