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

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