Sunday, 14 March 2010

Mothering Sunday

Today is Mothering Sunday. It has been celebrated in this country since at least the 16th century on the fourth Sunday in Lent which is why the date changes each year.

Mothering Sunday was also known as 'Refreshment Sunday', Pudding Pie Sunday (in Surrey), or 'Mid-Lent Sunday'. It was a day in Lent when the fasting rules were relaxed, in honour of the 'Feeding of the Five Thousand', a story in the Christian Bible.

The more usual name was Mothering Sunday. No one is absolutely certain exactly how the name of Mothering Sunday began. However, one theory is that the celebration could have been adopted from a Roman spring festival celebrating Cybele, their Mother Goddess.

As Christianity spread, this date was adopted by Christians. The epistle in the Book of Common Prayer for this Sunday refers to the heavenly Jerusalem as "the Mother of all us all", and this may have prompted the customs we still see today. It is known on this date, about four hundred years ago, people made a point of visiting their nearest big church (the Mother Church). The church in which each person was baptised.

Cathedrals are the 'mother church' of all other churches in an area ('diocese'). Canterbury Cathedral is pictured below. People who visited their mother church would say they had gone "a mothering."

Young British girls and boys 'in service' (maids and servants) were only allowed one day to visit their family each year. This was usually on Mothering Sunday. Often the housekeeper or cook would allow the maids to bake a cake to take home for their mother. Sometimes a gift of eggs; or flowers from the garden (or hothouse) was allowed. Sons and daughters often walked miles on their way home and picked posies of wildflowers on the way to give to their mothers.

Mothering Sunday is also sometimes know as Simnel Sunday because of the tradition of baking Simnel cakes. They were rich fruit cakes topped with marzipan shaped into 11 balls (to represent the 11 faithful apostles), though they can be interpreted as eggs.

" I’ll to thee a Simnell bring
‘Gainst thou go’st a mothering,
So that, when she blesseth thee,
Half that blessing thou’lt give to me.’
Robert Herrick, 1648

We send our best wishes to all our mothers on Mothering Sunday today. Thank you for your care of us, your children, and hope that we can do our very best to make you proud and be worthy of your love. This way we show our love for you.

We remember with loving thoughts our mothers no longer with us; and ask also that each of us shall spare a special thought for those mothers who are grieving for a child whose life has been cut cruelly short by war or from crime, for these mothers will never receive a gift from that child again.

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