In the UK, Mothering Sunday, also referred to as Mother's Day is determined by the lunar calendar. The date changes annually, but always falls on the fourth Sunday during the period of Lent, exactly three weeks before Easter Sunday and is the day when we remember, celebrate, and thank mothers, grandmothers, stepmothers, mothers-in-law, and other maternal figures who’ve loved and helped us during our lives.
Celebrating motherhood and offering thanks to mothers dates back as early as 250BC when the ancient Greeks and Romans held festivals to honour Cybele, the mother of the Gods and Rhea, the Goddess of fertility and motherhood.
In the 16th century Mothering Sunday was a religious occasion when thanks were given to the Virgin Mary, or Jesus’ Mother, Mary. Also known as “Laetere Sunday”, it was a day for Christians to return to the church in which they were baptised and attended services as a child; those who were domestic servants were given the day off from their duties so they could return to their hometown and worship in their church with their families.
As the occasion enabled families to be reunited, it became traditional for young people to take a gift of food and maybe collecting wildflowers en route to decorate the church. You can see where our giving of gifts and flowers originated.
Mother’s Day falls during Lent, the period from Ash Wednesday until Good Friday when traditionally people fasted, giving up bad habits and luxurious, sweet, rich foods and meat. Fasting was relaxed on this day and a Simnel cake was made and taken as a gift to be eaten with family. Simnel cake, is two layers of light fruit cake sandwiched with and covered with a layer of marzipan. Simnel cakes are also decorated with eleven balls of marzipan, representing Jesus’ twelve disciples, excluding Judas.
The day has lost most of its connections with the church and is mainly a family day when visits are made, cards and gifts are sent or given as a token of appreciation.
If you cannot visit in person, a phone call or Zoom/Skype call accompanied with a meaningful card sent in the post would be the next best thing and maybe have a gift delivered by one of the many online retailers. Children love to make a handmade card and often this is a project created in the school classroom but there is plenty of choice in card shops, supermarkets and online. The ones made at school tend to be kept as treasured possessions!
(And just in case you’re wondering, when you write your card, is it Mother’s Day or Mothers' Day? It's often debated where the apostrophe should be placed; some say it should fall after the “s” because it celebrates all mothers where others say it should be before the “s” because it’s for one’s own Mum!)
When it comes to gifts, there are no strict rules that state what gifts should be given on Mother’s Day but believe me, as a Mum, I can tell you that it does not have to be extravagant or expensive; sometimes it’s the simplest gifts or pleasures that give the happiest memories such as a nice breakfast in bed, a perfect start to the day or a few thoughtful words in a card.
Younger children can be helped to present a simple breakfast of juice, toast with butter and jam served attractively on a bed tray with a Mother’s Day card , while the older “children” may want to present something more advanced – croissants? smoked salmon, scrambled eggs on sourdough, anyone? Or maybe a traditional cooked breakfast served at the dining table with the rest of the family would be welcome treat.
Perhaps, the family could gather for a traditional Sunday roast either at lunchtime or in the evening. Alternatively, many restaurants offer a special Mother’s Day Lunch menu and afternoon tea is becoming a more popular option. You could even prepare your own afternoon, setting out some pretty crockery on a lovely tablecloth with an array of delicately cut sandwiches, scones with cream & jam, cakes piled on a cake stand. Some cafes and bakeries sell prepared afternoon tea platters for collection - you could go the extra mile and add a glass of Pink Prosecco or Rose Champagne.
As for gifts, the options are endless but whatever you come up with, I am sure your efforts to say thanks will be well received and treasured, here are a few ideas;
I hope these ideas help you treat your Mum but remember she’ll love whatever you choose and spending time together is the most precious gift of all.
We should not forget that Mother’s Day can be an emotional day. To those of you who have lost loved ones and therefore cannot be with them, I hope that memories of happy times bring comfort. I know for sure I will be thinking of my Mum, remembering all the happy times we had, being grateful for all she did and for all the love she gave to our family.
‘A mother’s arms are more comforting than anyone else’s’ – Princess Diana.
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