As I was browsing through some potential Mothers Day presents and suddenly thought, ‘what is Mothering Sunday actually about?’. So, I decided to look into the meaning of Mothering Sunday, the history behind it and how it is celebrated across the globe. Here is what I found out about this particular national holiday.
The meaning of Mothers Day
Just like the name insinuates, it is a day for people to celebrate their mother or mother figure. The celebration also has ties to Lent as Mothering Sunday is the fourth Sunday of the fasting season. Although many UK citizens call it Mother’s Day, that name was actually created by an American called Anna Jarvis in 1908. So, Mother’s Day is an American holiday that they celebrate in May and Mothering Sunday is a UK holiday that is celebrated in March.
As you can guess from it being the fourth Sunday of Lent, Mothering Sunday is a religious celebration. It was created during the 16th Century and, surprisingly, had no connotations to mothers. It actually represented people’s ‘mother’ church, which is the main church of worship for each person and where they would have travelled to for the Sunday celebration. A church was seen (and still can be) a place of protection, forgiveness and nourishment, all of which are also qualities that can be seen in a mother.
It was also a time when those who worked for rich families could have a day off to see their mothers and attend their church service. This different way of celebrating the day may have been why the tradition of visiting church has been in a decline.
During the 18th Century, Simnel cake was created and was eaten along with other foods as a feast which they took a break from their fasting with. It is similar to a Christmas cake with the fruit element, but the colour is lighter and it has marzipan inside. The tradition was to decorate the cake with 11 marzipan balls to represent Jesus’ disciples. Yes, Jesus did have 12 disciples but since Judas was the one who betrayed Jesus, he does not get a decoration dedicated to him.
How is it celebrated Globally?
In some countries, their Mother’s Day traditions are similar to ours and other places in the world. There are also some places that have a unique way to celebrate mothers. However, the history behind the special day in every country is different. Here are some example of how it is honoured in other countries.
In France, it is called La Fete des Meres and takes place in May like the US celebration. The day is spent similarly to how you would typically recognise it, showering mothers with gifts like flowers or jewellery. The origins of this commemoration began in 1806 when the French Emperor, Napoleon, decided to dedicate a day specifically for mothers of big families. However, it only became acknowledged by the French Government in 1929. Then in 1950, the Government created a law that stated: “the French Republic must pay tribute to mothers during Mother’s Day.”
Similarly in the US, people celebrate it on the second Sunday of May. Again, it is a time when people give their mothers gifts to show their appreciation. Anna Jarvis was the woman who helped bring the Mother’s Day celebrations that American’s now know today. What started as a private ceremony to honour her deceased mother soon became a national commemoration in France by word of mouth. The President at the time, Woodrow Wilson, appointed Mother’s Day as a special day in 1914. However, Jarvis was not the first woman who tried to make Mother’s Day a thing. In 1870, Julia Ward Howe, an American poet and writer, issued a Mother’s Day Proclamation. The feminist wanted all mothers from different nationalities to gather and discuss world peace. This, however, did not last long and it was Jarvis that took over.
Moreover, in Mexico, it is called Dia de las Madres and a tradition is for people to stand outside their mother’s house and serenade her. This song is called “Las Mananitas” and may be considered the best gift they can receive on the day. On the day there is a big feast with a variety of dishes, such as enchiladas and quesadillas. Mother’s Day became a tradition in Mexico in 1922 after Rafael Alducin, a journalist, created a national tribute to all mothers in Mexico. It became a set holiday on 10th May as that date used to be the set payday in Mexico, so people had some money that they could spend on their mothers.
Finally, Muttertag is the German celebration of Mother’s Day, which takes place on the second Sunday of May. It was officially declared as a national holiday in 1933. Mothers get phone calls from their children expressing their appreciation for everything their mother has done for them. Flowers are a normal present to give a mother, however, white flowers are reserved for mothers who have passed away.
There you have it, here are my findings about Mothering Sunday. I actually had no idea that Mother’s Day was an American term! Get in touch and tell us how you are celebrating Mother’s Day this year.
Happy Mother’s Day!