The Mothering Sunday Story and
In the 16th century,
the Church required that the people returned to their mother
church or cathedral
on the fourth Sunday
in Lent for that days service.
The day became known
as Mothering Sunday, not through association with Mothers,
but because of the
journey made to the mother church.
In an age when children
as young as ten left home to take up work or apprenticeships elsewhere,
this was often the
only day in the whole year when families would be reunited.
By the 17th century,
it had become a public holiday,
when servants and
apprentices were given the day off so that they could fulfill
their duties to the Church.
They often brought
gifts of flowers and a special cake for their Mothers.
The cake, made of
a fine wheaten flower, called simila in Latin, has evolved into
the traditional Simnel cake.
It is decorated
with eleven balls of marzipan, representing the Apostles (excluding
A folk tale has
a different explanation for the origin of the name.
A man called Simon
and his wife, Nell, were arguing over how to make the cake
should it be baked or boiled?
They resolved the
matter by doing both and the cake is called SIM-NEL after them.
In recent times,
Mothering Sunday has become more like the American Mother's Day
expected to give
presents and cards to their Mothers. The original meaning has
been largely lost.
This custom never
made its way to America and after the Civil War,
a number of women
campaigned to instigate a Mothers Day there.
In 1872, Julia Ward
Howe (who wrote the words to the Battle Hymn of the Republic)
attempted to instigate
a day dedicated to Peace which would be called Mothers
An incident in 1877
helped the campaign when Mrs. Juliet Calhoun Blakely took over
in her local church
after the pastor had to leave suddenly.
It was her birthday,
11th May, and her adult sons were present.
They were impressed
by their Mothers performance and promised to return to Albion,
Michigan every year
to honour their Mother.
They also campaigned
among business associates
and friends to join
them in setting aside a special day for Mothers.
But it was to be
many years before the custom was officially recognised.
It took the efforts
of another woman, Anna Jarvis, to finally bring about acceptance.
had herself been an advocate and campaigner for the establishment
of a Mothers
Friendship Day after the ravages of the Civil War. In 1907,
Anna held a ceremony
in Grafton, West Virginia to commemorate her Mother.
This was also on
the second Sunday in May (the second anniversary of her Mothers
Anna then began
to campaign to have the day established as Mothers Day.
By 1911, several
states had recognised the day and in 1914,
Wilson officially declared the day as a national holiday.
However, the commercialisation
of the holiday began almost immediately
and so angered Anna
Jarvis that, in 1923,
she filed a lawsuit
to try to stop a Mothers Day celebration and was even arrested
breach of the peace
when she attempted to stop the selling of carnations on the day.
Anna Jarvis died
in 1948, at the age of 84, bitter and angry over what had been
done with Mothers Day
She had spent her
inheritance (from her own mother)
on trying to halt
the commercialisation of the holiday she had done so much to create.