Mothering Sunday

Mothering Sunday, is a Christian holiday celebrated by Catholic and Protestant Christians in some parts of Europe. It falls on the fourth Sunday in Lent and became an occasion for honouring the mothers of children and giving them presents. It is increasingly being called Mother’s Day, although that has always been a secular event quite different from the original Mothering Sunday. In the UK, Mothering Sunday is celebrated in the same way as Mother’s Day is celebrated elsewhere

During the sixteenth century, people returned to their mother church, the main church or cathedral of the area, for a service to be held on Laetare Sunday. This was either a large local church, or more often the nearest cathedral. Anyone who did this was commonly said to have gone “a-mothering”, although whether this term preceded the observance of Mothering Sunday is unclear. In later times, Mothering Sunday became a day when domestic servants were given a day off to visit their mother church, usually with their own mothers and other family members. It was often the only time that whole families could gather together, since on other days they were prevented by conflicting working hours, and servants were not given free days on other occasions. Children and young people who were “in service” (as household servants) were given a day off on that date so they could visit their families (or, originally, return to their “mother” church). The children would pick wild flowers along the way to place in the church or give to their mothers. Eventually, the religious tradition evolved into the Mothering Sunday secular tradition of giving gifts to mothers.

By the 1920s the custom of keeping Mothering Sunday had tended to lapse in Ireland and in continental Europe. In 1914, inspired by Anna Jarvis’s efforts in the United States, Constance Penswick-Smith created the Mothering Sunday Movement, and in 1921 she wrote a book asking for the revival of the festival; Constance was the daughter of the vicar of Coddington, Nottinghamshire, and there is a memorial in Coddington’s church. Its widescale revival was through the influence of American and Canadian soldiers serving abroad during World War II; the traditions of Mothering Sunday, still practised by the Church of England and Church of Ireland were merged with the newly imported traditions and celebrated in the wider Catholic and secular society. UK-based merchants saw the commercial opportunity in the holiday and relentlessly promoted it in the UK; by the 1950s, it was celebrated across all the UK.

People from Ireland and the UK started celebrating Mother’s Day on the same day that Mothering Sunday was celebrated, the fourth Sunday in Lent. The two celebrations have now been mixed up, and many people think that they are the same thing. Mothering Sunday remains in the calendar of some Canadian Anglican churches, particularly those with strong English connections.

Mother’s Day (Not to be confused with Mothering Sunday) is a modern celebration originating in North America, honoring one’s own mother, as well as motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society. It is celebrated on various days in many parts of the world, most commonly in the months of March or May. It complements similar celebrations honoring family members, such as Father’s Day and Siblings Day. The celebration of Mother’s Day began in the United States in the early 20th century; it is not related to the many celebrations of mothers and motherhood that have occurred throughout the world over thousands of years, such as the Greek cult to Cybele, the Roman festival of Hilaria, or the Christian Mothering Sunday celebration (originally a celebration of the mother church, not motherhood). Despite this, in some countries Mother’s Day has become synonymous with these older traditions.

The modern American holiday of Mother’s Day was first celebrated in 1908, when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother in Grafton, West Virginia. Her campaign to make “Mother’s Day” a recognized holiday in the United States began in 1905, the year her beloved mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, died. Anna’s mission was to honor her own mother by continuing work she had started and to set aside a day to honor mothers, “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world”. Anna’s mother, Ann Jarvis, was a peace activist who had cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the Civil War and created Mother’s Day Work Clubs to address public health issues.Due to the campaign efforts of Anna Jarvis, several states officially recognized Mother’s Day, the first in 1910 being West Virginia, Jarvis’ home state. In 1914 Woodrow Wilson signed the proclamation creating Mothawer’s Day, the second Sunday in May, as a national holiday to honor mothers.

Although Jarvis was successful in founding Mother’s Day shesoon became resentful of the commercialization and was angry that companies would profit from the holiday. By the early 1920’s, Hallmark and other companies had started selling Mother’s Day cards. Jarvis became so embittered by what she saw as misinterpretation and exploitation that she protested and even tried to rescind Mother’s Day. The holiday that she had worked so hard for was supposed to be about sentiment, not about profit.The original intention was to appreciate and honor mothers by writing a personal letter, by hand, expressing love and gratitude; it wasn’t to buy gifts and pre-made cards. Jarvis organized boycotts and threatened lawsuits to try to stop the commercialization. She crashed a candymakers’ convention in Philadelphia in 1923. Two years later she protested at a confab of the American War Mothers, which raised money by selling carnations, the flower associated with Mother’s Day, and was arrested for disturbing the peace.Jarvis died hating the modern shape of the holiday which had become too commercialised and the original message had been lost.

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