Mothering Sunday or Mother’s Day, as it is more commonly known these days, is a ‘day of two women’ but its origins hark back to a dark and distant past in medieval Britain.
In England, this day takes place on the fourth Sunday of Lent. The origins of this day take us to when the church was all powerful in the centuries following the Norman invasion. It was a day of pilgrimage when the local populace would make their way to the ‘Mother Church’ in their locality. This could either be a cathedral or major church or one where the individuals were baptised or christened. Coming back to ‘the mother’ in a religious sense.
During the 17th century the good folks of Gloucestershire had different ideas about this date. The live-in servants and apprentices would use this day to go and visit their mothers and other family members. At this time of year in rural, agricultural England the food stocks, from last years’ harvests, were running incredibly low. The young would go and share food and money if needed with their Mum. From this act the Simnel cake was born, being shared on this day, to starving relatives.
Moving forward 300 years we find ourselves in the early 20th century, with The Great War beginning in Europe and two women from either side of the Atlantic.
In America, Anne Jarvis was becoming the ‘mother’ of Mother’s Day. Her own mother had died in 1908 and she had campaigned to have a day of recognition for all mothers. In 1914, Mother’s Day was declared a public holiday by the president. In Great Britain Constance Adelaide Smith was being influenced by what she had heard of Ms. Jarvis. However, being a staunch devotee of English culture and tradition, she was in no way going down the ‘Yankee’ route and being more reserved tried to revive the medieval idea of a church-based Mothering Sunday. In fact, Anne Jarvis was becoming so appalled at the commercialised way that Mother’s Day was being portrayed that she started to campaign against it herself! The simple act of wearing a white carnation, her mother’s favourite flower, was the only recognition she wanted to honour all the mothers on their special day. In 1943, 5 years before her death, Ms. Jarvis’ was petitioning for the full abolition of Mother’s Day.
Constance Smith, although passing away 10 years before Ms. Jarvis, had a countrywide backing for her own Mothering Sunday. It was said that the British Mother’s Day was celebrated in every parish of the land and in every country of the remaining commonwealth.
And both ladies’ legacies live on to this day with the church playing its own part. We believe every day should be honoured as Mother’s Day. For without the Mother Earth there would be nothing.
So, if you are a Mum, Step-Mum, Foster-Mum, Fur Mum, Bird Mum, fish-mum, or any other Mother, (not so sure about Egyptian mummies), we hope you have the day you deserve. Also sending love to our Mum’s who are no longer with us – who we will always remember with love.
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