Mother's Day - or Mothering Sunday - is on Sunday, March 26.
The day is always on the fourth Sunday of Lent, exactly three weeks before Easter Sunday and usually in the second half of March or early April.
The day is a celebration of mothers and the maternal bond and traditionally children give flowers, presents and cards to their mothers, and other maternal figures such as grandmothers, stepmothers and mothers-in-law.
When did Mothering Sunday begin?
The day has long been associated with mothers and family. For centuries it was custom for people to return home to their ‘mother’ church on Laetare Sunday – the middle of Lent. Those who did so were said to have gone ‘a-mothering’.
The day often turned into a family reunion and a chance for children working away from home – often young domestic servants - to spend time with their mothers. Many used to pick flowers from the verges along the way to leave in the church or hand to their mothers when they got home.
But it was American social activist Anna Jarvis (1864-1948) from Philadelphia who lobbied the government for an official day to honour mothers in the US, and is regarded as the "Mother of Mother's Day". She dedicated her life to the cause after swearing she would do so after her mother's death.
However, over the years Jarvis became increasingly concerned at the commercialisation of the day, saying "I wanted it to be a day of sentiment, not profit." She also didn't like the selling of flowers and the use of greetings cards which she described as "a poor excuse for the letter you are too lazy to write".
Anna Jarvis founded the Mother's Day holiday in the United States
The day took off in Britain when vicar's daughter Constance Smith was inspired by a 1913 newspaper report of Jarvis' campaign and began a push for the day to be officially marked in England.
Smith, of Coddington, Nottinghamshire, founded the Mothering Sunday Movement and even wrote a booklet The Revival of Mothering Sunday in 1920. Interestingly, neither Smith nor Jarvis became mother’s themselves.
By 1938 Mothering Sunday had become a popular celebration with Boy Scouts, Girl Guides and various parishes across Britain marking the day and communities adopting the imported traditions of American and Canadian soldiers during the war.
By the 1950s it was being celebrated throughout Britain and businesses realised the commercial opportunities.
Mothering Sunday or Mother’s Day?
When you say 'Mother’s Day' you're actually referring to the American version, although the term is widely used in Britain too. In the US, Mother's Day falls on Sunday, May 14 this year.
The French celebrate Mother's Day on the last Sunday in May, where a family dinner is the norm, and traditionally the mother being honoured is presented with a cake that looks like a bouquet of flowers.
Mother’s Day in Spain is celebrated on December 8th. Spaniards pay tribute not only to their own mothers on this day, but also to the Virgin Mary. The day includes religious celebrations across the country.
Mother’s Day traditions
Simnel cakes are associated with Mother’s Day. During Lent, people did not eat sweet foods, rich foods or meat. However, the fast was lifted slightly on Mothering Sunday and many people prepared a Simnel cake to eat with their family on this day.
A Simnel cake is a light fruit cake covered with a layer of marzipan and with a layer of marzipan baked into the middle of the cake. Traditionally, Simnel cakes are decorated with 11 or 12 balls of marzipan, representing the 11 disciples and, sometimes, Jesus Christ.
One legend says that the cake was named after Lambert Simnel who worked in the kitchens of Henry VII of England sometime around the year 1500.