The Mothering Sunday Story and Traditions.

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 day’s 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 Judas).

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 with offspring

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 Mother’s 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 ‘Mother’s Day’.

An incident in 1877 helped the campaign when Mrs. Juliet Calhoun Blakely took over the service

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 Mother’s 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.

Anna’s Mother had herself been an advocate and campaigner for the establishment

of a ‘Mother’s 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 Mother’s death).

Anna then began to campaign to have the day established as Mother’s Day.

By 1911, several states had recognised the day and in 1914,

President Woodrow 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 Mother’s Day celebration and was even arrested for

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 Mother’s 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.