Sunday 6 March 2016

Mothering Sunday

When a child is born, there is a new beginning for the mother. She was not extant as a mother before and fulfilling that role is entirely new for her.

As a mother you will hear yourself saying your mother’s words to your own children and one day you will look in the mirror and see your mother.

Mothering Sunday can be traced back as far as ancient Greece when an annual spring festival was held. This was a dedication to Rhea, mother of the gods.

In the UK and Ireland, Mothering Sunday is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent meaning that it falls on a different date each year. It has no connection with the American Mother’s Day, which is celebrated in May each year.

Hundreds of years ago it was important for everyone to return to his or her home or ‘mother’ church in the middle of Lent, once a year. The church where people would worship on most Sundays was called their ‘daughter’ church. Girls would leave home early, sometimes as young as ten, and go to work as domestic servants. Midway through Lent they were allowed one day’s holiday to return home to their family to go to their ‘mother’ church. They would take a cake, probably a simnal cake, to their family, which they would have baked themselves whilst they were learning to cook. If the cake lasted until Easter then they were considered to be a good cook. Later the cake became more traditional to bake for Easter rather than Mothering Sunday. They would have had to walk home to visit their families and on the way would pick wild flowers, violets maybe or celandines, and they would take them to the church or give them to their mothers.

Whilst attending church on Mothering Sunday there was sometimes a ceremony called ‘church-clipping’. During this the churchgoers would hold hands and form a circle (if there were enough people) and they would then walk around the church. This may have been a Pagan ritual originally, but is more likely to have symbolised love and friendship.

The fasting rules of Lent were relaxed on Mothering Sunday and another name for the day was Refreshment Sunday and often something called furmety was prepared and served. This was hulled, cracked wheat, like Bulgar wheat, or sometimes barley, boiled in milk with had spice added and then sweetened with sugar. However, in Scotland and the north of England carlings were the preferred refreshment. Carlings were like pancake made from dried peas that have been soaked overnight and seasoned then fried in butter. This gave rise to the fourth Sunday in Lent being called Carling Sunday.
Mother’s Day in Norway is celebrated on the second Sunday in February. America celebrates ‘Mothers’ Day’ on the second Sunday of May, as do Australia, Belgium, Italy, Denmark, Finland and Turkey. On the last Sunday in May, France has their Mothers’ Day, which is a huge family gathering. After dinner the mother, or mothers are presented with an ornate and beautifully made cake.
Argentina has Mother’s Day on the Second Sunday in October. Also in October, the Hindu people of India honour Durga, the Divine Mother with a ten-day festival called Durga Puja.
Moving on to December, Portugal and Spain praise the Virgin Mary on the 8th and this is their Mothers’ Day celebration.
You only have one mother, patient, kind and true,
No other friend in all the world, will be as true to you.

© Karen Ette   
Photographs © Syd Spence

Tuesday 1 March 2016

Welsh Cakes and St David

Who was St David and why is 1st March St David’s Day?

Unlike the other British and Irish patron saints, St David was actually Welsh. St Patrick, (17th March) may have been born in the Welsh-speaking Northern Kingdom of Strathclyde, St George (23rd April) is believed to have been a Roman soldier possibly Greek or Turkish, and St Andrew (30th November) was born in Palestine.

St David was born around 500AD in Carfai, Pembrokeshire. His father was Sandde, the Prince of Powys and his mother was Saint Non. He was reputed to have been nick-named the water drinker as he ate only vegetables and drank only water.

He became the Bishop of Menevia in Pembrokeshire, which is now called ‘St Davids’ and is known as the ‘Bishop with the Dove’ as he is usually depicted with a dove on his shoulder. This image comes from what is his most well-known miracle. He was preaching to a large number at the Synod of Brefi and the ground where he stood is reputed to have risen up to form a hill on which now stands the village of Llanddewi Brefi. A white dove was seen to settle on his shoulder.

St David is thought to have died on a Tuesday, 1st March around 589 AD, although this was later revised to 601 AD. In 1102 Pope Callixtus officially declared him a saint.

Whilst St David’s official symbol is the dove, most people today wear a daffodil to commemorate St David’s day, but leeks have also been a long-standing symbol of St David. This is because legend has it that David advised Welsh soldiers to wear leeks in their hats so that they could be distinguished in battle against the Saxons. Welsh Regiments have been known to eat raw leeks on the 1st March!

As for daffodils, this flower typifies springtime and Lloyd George always wore a daffodil on St David’s Day and in 1911 he encouraged its use at the investiture of the Prince of Wales. The flower offered a more fragrant alternative to wearing leeks whilst still symbolising a distinctive Welsh identity.

Why not make some Welsh Cakes (Pic ear y maen) for the occasion?

You will need:

8oz plain flour and 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
or, 8oz self-raising flour
1/4 teaspoon mixed spice – optional
pinch of salt

4oz butter (salted and Welsh if you can get it) or 2oz butter and 2oz lard or 4oz margarine is fine too.
3oz caster sugar
2oz sultanas (currants for traditional Welsh cakes)
1 egg, beaten
A little milk, just for binding

Sieve the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl.
Rub in the butter (or butter and lard) until the mix resembled breadcrumbs.
Stir in the sugar and dried fruit.
Add the egg and bind all the ingredients together. Use a little milk if the mix is too dry.
Roll out the dough on a floured work surface. It needs to be about as thick as you.r little finger.
Cut out the cakes using a 2 inch (5 cm) cutter  - you should get around 12-15.

Grease a flat griddle pan or heavy frying pan place over a medium heat. Cook the Welsh cakes in batches, for about 3 minutes on each side, until they have browned and are cooked through.

Welsh Cakes are usually served sprinkled with caster sugar, but you can butter them, put jam on - the choice is yours.

 Happy St David's Day

© Karen Ette