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Saturday, 16 February 2013

Mother’s Day, Mothering Sunday, Mothers name it (Part 1)

Mother’s Day, Mothering Sunday, Mothers Day there is enough to confuse the best of us. And why is it celebrated on different days of the year and not on the same day everywhere in the world? As Mother’s Day is fast approaching again this year – 10th March – let’s discover its history, traditions and do on around the globe. Let’s start form our doorstep: UK.

Mothering Sunday vs. Mother's Day

Nowadays Mothering Sunday is often called Mother's Day in UK and it is regarded as synonymous with Mother's Day, as celebrated in other countries around the world, although many still prefer the more historically accurate ‘Mothering Sunday’.

Mother’s Day - History

The history of Mother's Day goes back many centuries – as far as the Egyptians. Early Christians celebrated the Mother's festival on the fourth Sunday of Lent to honour Mary, the mother of Christ. Later on, a religious order included the celebration of all mothers and named it as the Mothering Sunday.

Spiritual Origins of Mothers Day

The practice of honouring Motherhood is rooted in antiquity, and past rites had strong symbolic and spiritual tones and tended to celebrate Goddesses as the symbol of Mothers. The maternal objects of adoration ranged from mythological female deities to the Christian Church itself. Only in the past few centuries did celebrations of Motherhood develop a decidedly human focus. This human aspect to Mother’s Day is relatively new.

One of the earliest historical records of celebrating a ‘Mother’ deity can be found among the ancient Egyptians, who held an annual festival to honour the goddess Isis, who was commonly regarded as the Mother of the pharaohs. The festival of Isis was also celebrated by the Romans who used the event to commemorate an important battle and mark the beginning of the Winter. Despite being an imported deity, Isis held a place at the Roman temple. However the root in the Roman’s Mother’s Day is perhaps found more precisely in the celebration of the goddess Cybele, or Magna Mater (the Great Mother). Cybele derives from the Greek Goddess Rhea, who was the Mother of most of the major deities, including Zeus. Rhea was celebrated as a mother goddess, and her festival took place around the time of the Vernal Equinox (Spring equinox). In Rome and Asia Minor (Roman Empire), Cybele was the major Mother deity similarly to Rhea, the mother of the Gods in Greek culture. The Roman celebration of Cybele or Magna Mater fell around the 15 and 22 of March, at a similar time the Greek would have celebrated Rhea.

Modern times celebrations

Another holiday / festival to celebrate and honour Motherhood came from Europe. It fell on the 4th Sunday of Lent (the 40 days of fasting preceding Easter Sunday). Early Christians initially used this day to honour the church in which they were baptized, and that they saw as their ‘Mother Church’.

In the 1600's a decree in England broadened the celebration to include all real Mothers and referred to the day as Mothering Day. During this day - Lenten Sunday - servants and trade workers were allowed to travel back to their towns of origin to visit their families. Mothering Day also provided a one-day reprieve from the fasting and penance of Lent so that families across England could enjoy a family feast and represented a day where mothers were the main guest of honour. Mothers would be presented with cakes and flowers and overall mothers would get to see their distant children.

Mothering Day or Mothering Sunday in United Kingdom and Ireland

Early Christians in England celebrated the Mother's festival on the 4th Sunday of Lent to honour Mary, the mother of Christ. In the 16th century people working out of their homes were expected to return to the "mother" church (the spiritual power that gave them life and protected them from any harm).

In the United Kingdom and Ireland, this celebration is known as Mothering Sunday. The practice of visiting one's ‘mother’ church every year on the Lenten Sunday, meant that most mothers would be reunited with their children as young apprentices and young women in service were released by their masters to make the journey home that weekend to go visit their families.

In some Church of England churches, this day is the only day during Lent when marriages can be celebrated.

In the early 1900s (1935), the practice of celebrating Mothering Sunday fell into disuse. However, after the 2nd World War the tradition started to be revived, partly inspired by efforts made to revive the festival in the 1910s–1920s; it wasn't until after World War II when American soldiers brought Mother's Day celebrations to the UK and they were incorporated with the tradition of Mothering Sunday which was still being celebrated by the Church of England. In the 1950s the celebrations started gathering memento as were seen as a great commercial opportunity.

Irish and British people started to celebrate Mother's Day on the 4th Sunday of Lent, the same day on which Mothering Sunday had been celebrated for centuries before. Some of the old Mothering Sunday’s traditions were revived, such as the tradition of eating cake on that day, although nowadays Simnel cake is eaten instead of traditional cakes eaten in the olden days. The two celebrations have now mixed up and many people think that they are the same thing.

Recently the day was dubbed ‘Mother's Day’ or ‘Mothers' Day’ however sometimes ‘Mothers Day’ is also used.

Mothering Sunday, also known as...

Other names attributed to the festival of Mothering Day were: Refreshment Sunday, Mid-Lent Sunday, Simnel Sunday and Rose Sunday. Simnel Sunday as baking Simnel Cakes to celebrate the reunion of families during Lent. Rose Sunday is sometimes used as an alternative title for Laetare Sunday, as witnessed by the purple robes of Lent being replaced by rose-coloured ones in some churches.

Simnel Cake – Facts

Nowadays the Simnel cake is strongly associated with this holiday. It was also that Simnel Cakes became associated with Mothering Sunday as young servants/maids were allowed to bake a cake to take home to their mother as a gift. Fruit cakes known as "Simnel Cakes" became one of the most common gifts on Mothering Sundays;

  • Around 1600, when the celebration was only held in England and Scotland, a different kind of pastry was preferred;
  • In England they served a cake called "Mothering Sunday Buns" with raisin and butter icing;
  • In Northern England and Scotland some preferred "Carlings", a pancake made of steeped peas fried in butter.
As with most Mothering Sunday customs and traditions, the Simnel Cake has also a religious flavour: on top of the cake are placed 11 marzipan balls, signifying 11 of the 12 apostles of Christ, excluding the notorious apostle Judas, who had betrayed Jesus.

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