Mothering Sunday: A date with multiple origins

March 24, 2022| Articles, Past Issues

Mother’s Day is a special day honouring mothers and it’s celebrated in many countries throughout the world. It is also known as Mothering Sunday in the UK. This year, Mother’s Day falls on Sunday 27th March.

History of Mother’s Day

During the Middle Ages, the custom developed of allowing people who had moved away from where they grew up to come back to visit their home or ‘mother’ churches, and their mothers, on the fourth Sunday of the Christian festival of Lent.

At the time, it wasn’t uncommon for children to leave home to work when they were as young as 10 years old, so this was an opportunity for families to meet up again.

In Britain this became Mothering Sunday. As the dates of Lent vary each year, so does the date of Mothering Sunday.

Although it’s often called Mother’s Day in the UK, it has no connection with the American Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day in the US

In the US, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday of May each year.

The idea started in America when a woman called Anna Jarvis held a small memorial service for her own mother on the 12th May 1907.

Soon after, most places in America were observing the day and in 1914, the US president made it a national holiday, celebrated on the second Sunday of May. Lots of other countries celebrate Mother’s Day at different times of the year as well.

Traditional Mother’s Day foods

The food item traditionally associated with Mothering Sunday is Simnel cake – a type of fruit cake with two layers of almond paste (one on the top and one in the middle).

Although these days, Simnel cakes are more usually linked with Easter.

Traditionally churches hold Mothering Sunday services and flowers are given out to children to give to their mums.