The History of Mother’s Day – In the United Kingdom, we celebrate Mother’s Day on the fourth Sunday in Lent. This year it falls on Sunday 27th March. Although, in other countries they celebrate Mother’s Day on different days for example in Australia, the US and Canada Mother’s Day lands on the second Sunday in May.
The roots of the British Mother’s Day or Mothering Sunday as it was originally known goes all the way back to the 16th century. This special day first began as two very separate celebrations even though today they are celebrated at the same time.
In America, a lady named Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother who passed on May 9th1908. Anna’s mother organised women’s groups to promote friendship and health. After her mother’s death Anna fought tirelessly for a holiday to celebrate all mothers. Within 5 years every state in America was observing the day and in 1914 U.S President Woodrow Wilson signed a bill making Mother’s Day an official national holiday on the second Sunday in May.
The popularity of Mother’s Day in the US made its way over to Britain where we also adopted this celebration. It was a day when families would come together to spend the day with their mothers. In a 1920 newspaper article it was stated that Mother’s Day would be on 8th August. However, in following years it was always in May, just like in America. By 1926, greeting cards unique to Mother’s Day were being produced and flower shops advertised bouquets of flowers to be given on this day.
In the UK, Mothering Sunday is a Christian celebration that takes place on the fourth Sunday of Lent, 3 weeks before Easter Sunday. This celebration, originally called Mid Lent Sunday, dates back several centuries to when Catholicism was the main religion in England.
Mothering Sunday derived from the Roman Catholic celebration to honour and give thanks to the Virgin Mary otherwise known as Mother Mary. This would require parishioners to travel to the main ‘mother’ church in their area which was often a Cathedral as opposed to their nearest ‘daughter’ church (usually a chapel). Over time this celebration encouraged to thank and appreciate all mothers. The gatherings reunited families and gave children who worked away from home as apprentices or servants a chance to have the day off and make it a true family occasion. Children would often take gifts of money, trinkets and food. It was also popular that children would return home to receive cakes (known as the mothering cake or Simnel cake) and sweetmeats from their mothers. The fasting rules for Lent were relaxed on Mothering Sunday also known as ‘Refreshment Sunday’.
The most popular food for this time was Simnel cake which was a fruit cake with two layers of almond paste, one on top and one in the middle decorated with 11 marzipan balls on the top that represented the 11 disciples excluding Judas.
Mothering Sunday was celebrated as a Holy Day up until March 1949 where a Gloucestershire newspaper reporter asked if Mothering Sunday had been lost during World War 2 as there had been no observance of this day for the past few years. However, greeting cards played a crucial role in communication during the two world wars.
Mother’s Day cards became very popular in the UK when the homesick wartime soldiers would send greeting cards to their landladies who many saw as their second mothers. Even after the war ended, Mother’s Day cards became a permanent source of British boys and girls showing affection for their mothers. Mother’s Day cards were here to stay.
By 1950 Mothering Sunday and Mother’s Day was being merged. Many people were not overjoyed about this merging of the two days. A vicar in 1951 was outraged about the fact that shops were advertising Mother’s Day cards, flowers and gifts on what was originally Mothering Sunday. He expressed that Mother’s Day was a commercialised American invention and was not part of holy scripture.
Nevertheless, by 1957 it was reported that most churches accepted Mother’s Day and Mothering Sunday together. Whilst today the commercial side has become a huge business the church still holds special services where they give children bunches of flowers (daffodils) to give to their mothers.
Last year, in the UK we spent £57 million on greeting cards for our mum’s. Mother’s Day is the second most popular (Christmas being first) celebration for giving cards.