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Mothering Sunday - UK

Mothering Sunday is a celebration of all mothers. It is a time for families to come together, and for children show their love and gratitude by giving cards, flowers and perhaps gifts or crafts.

When is Mothering Sunday?

Mothering Sunday is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent. This year, the date for Mothering Sunday is 22 March, 2020.

Are You Ready for Mothering Sunday, 2020?

Today is Sunday, April 21, 2024. There are 0 days, 0 hours and 0 minutes left until Mothering Sunday in the UK.

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Read on to learn more about the history of Mothering Sunday...

Spiritual & Cultural Origins of Mothering Sunday

Cybele - Mother of the Gods

Mothering Sunday has origins dating back to an Ancient Roman religious celebration called the Hilaria Festival. The Hilaria Festival took place on the vernal equinox, to honor Cybele, mother of the gods. (Read more about Cybele, and Greek mother goddess Rhea, here.)

Early Christian Celebration

mothering sunday

By the 16th century, as Ancient Roman religious and cultural traditions in Europe and England gave way to the spread of Christianity, Hilaria celebrations became part of Laetare Sunday - the fourth Sunday of of Lent in the Christian liturgical calendar.

Early Christians in England celebrated the fourth Sunday of Lent to honor the Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ ... and also, "Mother Church." During this period, people commonly returned to their local church or catherdral - their "mother church." Those who did so were said to have gone "a-mothering."

In the 1600's a clerical decree in England broadened the celebration from one focused on the church and the Virgin Mary, to include real Mothers, referring to the occasion as Mothering Day.

The Naming of Mothering Sunday

Eventually, this day - the fourth Sunday of Lent - came to be known as "Mothering Sunday."

No one knows with certainty exactly which aspects of the celebration's history most lead to the names "Mothering Day" and "Mothering Sunday." Most likely it was a combination of many religious customs and traditions over many centuries - from the earliest celebrations of Ancient Roman and Greek "mother gods," to modern Christian influences of celebrating the Virgin Mary while visting one's "mother church" - that set the stage for the naming and celebration of "Mothering Day" (which evolved into the current "Mothering Sunday").

Today, while Mothering Sunday has retained its religious roots as a celebration of one's "mother church" and the Virgin Mary, the occasion has also evolved into a broader, secular celebration in honor of motherhood, and mums everywhere.

.  Read more about the spirituality of Mothering Sunday here , here and here .

mothering sunday maid

Mothering Sunday and the Boys and Girls "In Service"

Manor houses, mansions and castles needed their domestic servants on hand at all times, to keep domestic affairs running smoothly. Many of those servants were young boys and girls "in service."

Often those young servants were allowed only one day off a year to vist family. That day became Mothering Sunday, and as such, Mothering Sunday became a very important occasion for families to reunite and celebrate their love for one and other.

Simnel Cakes

simnel cake

It was also out of this situation that Simnel Cakes became associated with Mothering Sunday. Young servants and maids were often allowed to bake a cake to take home to their mother as a gift. Fruit cakes knowns as "Simnel Cakes" became one of the most common of these Mothering Sunday gifts.

As with most Mothering Sunday customs and traditions, the Simnel Cake has 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 Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus.

The Fall and Rise of Mothering Sunday

By the 1920's and '30s, the centuries-old traditions of Mothering Sunday had started to fade in the UK. Then came World War II. During those dark and trying days, North American soldiers - lonely and missing their girlfriends, wives and mums - revived interest in Mothering Sunday by celebrating their own version of this day: "Mother's Day." Reminded by visiting solidiers of just how special this day still was, UK families once again began celebrating Mothering Sunday with enthusiasm.

Though the Americans celebrated "Mother's Day" on the second Sunday in May, citizens in the UK retained their own tradition of keeping Mothering Sunday on fourth Sunday in Lent.

Mothering Sunday Vs Mother's Day - What's in a Name?

Today, Mothering Sunday in the UK is often called "Mother's Day" and is regarded as more or less synonymous with "Mother's Day" as celebrated in other countries around the world, though many still prefer the more historically accurate "Mothering Sunday."

What do you think? Is it time to change the name of this day from "Mothering Sunday" to "Mother's Day"?

In 2011, we took a poll. These were the results:

.  Read more about Mothering Sunday vs. Mother's Day.

.  Learn more about Mothers Day around the world.

Mothering Sunday Miscellany

Have a little extra time? Hop on over to our main videos page, and enjoy this lovely Mothering Sunday video.






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