History of Mother’s Day: Mothering Sunday Origins in the UK

History of Mother’s Day: Mothering Sunday Origins in the UK

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Mother’s Day in the UK is on March 26 in 2017. It’s the day that people remember their mothers, whether alive or dead. Companies around the country will put on special events and children get excited about making breakfast in bed and seeing the look on their mothers’ faces at the gifts they’ve bought.

Here at Cheeky Monkey Gifts, we’ve looked at some low cost Mother’s Day gifts for grandmas and for mothers in general. We want you to have fun this Mothering Sunday. For today, we want to look at the Mothering Sunday origins – the history of Mother’s Day in the UK.

Just how far back does the tradition go and why do we celebrate it?

History of Mother's Day

It’s Mothering Sunday, Not Mother’s Day

There are plenty of people who despise the name “Mother’s Day” in the UK. They also don’t like the commercialism of the day, blaming the Americans for it. I guess we like to blame the Americans for a lot of commercialisation of a few holidays (like Halloween, for instance). For those who do despise the commercialism of the holiday, there may be some good news. The woman responsible for the American version of the holiday also disliked the way that the holiday became a commercial event and even called it a “Hallmark Holiday!”

Well, it’s true that Mother’s Day is the more American term. It’s celebrated on the second Sunday in May over the pond.

In the UK, Mothering Sunday has links to Constance Smith, who was actually inspired by Anna Jarvis – the reason for Mother’s Day in the United States. So we need to look at the history of Mother’s Day in the USA to understand this a little more.

Anna Jarvis campaigned for a day to celebrate mothers. Her mother died on May 9 and in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the second Sunday in May would be known as Mother’s Day. In the UK, Smith was inspired by Jarvis’ campaigning. In 1913, she read a report about the campaign and believed that the UK should have a day to praise mothers everywhere.

As Smith was a High Anglican church member, she believed that the date should fall on the fourth Sunday in Lent. Smith believed that the Church of England literature called for this day of praise for mothers, although it turns out that there is nothing about maternal praise at all – it’s another example of someone taking literature out of context, but that’s a completely different debate.

There Is a Deeper Mothering Sunday History

But Mothering Sunday hasn’t just been around since the early 20th century. In fact, England specifically has celebrated Mothering Sunday since the 16th century. It was on the fourth Sunday of Lent, and was a day to give thanks and honour the Virgin Mary. People were to visit the main church in their area, known as the “mother” church.

As Christianity spread across Europe, Mothering Sunday became a bigger thing. Families were reunited, as those who worked as servants were allowed to take the day off to be with their mothers.

It’s likely that these celebrations were linked to the Roman celebrations, which were all about their Mother Goddess.

Over time, Mothering Sunday lost its focus. It lost its importance throughout Europe. That’s why Smith made a point of bringing it back after seeing how hard Jarvis pushed for it in the United States. It was after World War II that it started to grow in popularity again, but this time aimed specifically at mothers in the country.

Food Eaten on Mothering Sunday

Like any holiday and celebration, there is food that is tradition with the day. Back in the 17th century, simnel cakes were the thing to make on this day. This was something that Smith brought back, thanks to her booklet on the date The Revival of Mothering Sunday in 1920.

These are still a thing in some homes, but not made as often. Some children will be involved in baking bread on the day and a traditional Sunday roast dinner is often made for later in the day. With restaurants and cafes focused on the commercialism of the day, there are now many families who choose to go out to celebrate.

Like with other days, while there is a tradition that doesn’t mean you have to go with it. Why not enjoy your favourite meal together instead to celebrate your mothers.

And if you’re looking for gift ideas, Jarvis thought that a handwritten letter to mothers was better than a printed card – it takes a little extra effort but there is so much more thought in that!


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