Making the Most Out of Mothering Sunday

March 4, 2013

Why and How the UK Celebrates Mothering Sunday

Mothering Sunday is a popular holiday in the UK that occurs on the 4th Sunday of Lent. Traditionally a Christian holiday, Mothering Sunday is not to be confused with the widespread American holiday known as Mother’s Day, which occurs in May. The two, however, are celebrated in much the same way, although Mothering Sunday has unique origins that date back as far as the 16th century.

Historically, Mothering Sunday was a day that children were given off of work to visit their mothers (it was not unusual for children over the age of 10 to work as servants in the 16th century).

These days, it is customary for children of all ages to give their mothers flowers, cards and gifts in honour of this festive March holiday.

How Mothering Sunday Got Its Name

It was routine for Christians in England to attend church every Sunday in the 16th century. Generally, worship was attended at a local community parish called the “daughter church.” Once a year, though, it was common for everyone to visit their “mother church,” or the central cathedral in the area.

Because so many children who were away from home working as servants would return on this day, it became associated with families being reunited. Historians assert that this return to the “mother church” is what led to the custom of children being given the day off to visit their families and mothers.

On their journeys home, children would sometimes pick wild flowers to give to their mothers as gifts.

A Rose by Any Other Name

Anyone who observes Lent is well aware that there are rules one must follow to abstain from certain things. Mothering Sunday was historically a day that those rules were allowed to be gleefully bent. The holiday was thus given the second name, Refreshment Sunday.

With fasting rules relaxed, people would prepare special meals and cakes to share with their families and celebrate the holiday. Specifically, the food most associated with Mothering Sunday is Simnel cake.

A specific type of fruit cake, the Simnel cake is prepared with two layers of almond paste and balls of marzipan icing on top. Historically, it was also customary to include sugar violets.

When it comes to modern day Mothering Sunday celebrations in the UK, this maternal festivity often includes friends, family, and of course our dear mothers. Check local listings for Mothering Sunday events, or put together your own little shindig in celebration of the most wonderful woman in your life.

 

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