Mothering Sunday

Mothering Sunday
Gregorian dates for Mothering Sunday
2004 21 March
2005 6 March
2006 26 March
2007 18 March
2008 2 March
2009 22 March
2010 14 March
2011 3 April
2012 18 March
2013 10 March
2014 30 March
2015 15 March
2016 6 March

Mothering Sunday is a Christian festival celebrated throughout Europe that falls on the 4th Sunday in Lent. Secularly it became a celebration of motherhood.[1] It is increasingly being called Mother's Day, although in countries other than the UK and Ireland that holiday has other origins.[1] In the UK it is considered synonymous with Mother's Day as celebrated in other countries.



In the Roman religion the Hilaria festival was held in honour of the mother goddess Cybele and it took place during mid-March. As the Roman Empire and Europe converted to Christianity, this celebration became part of the liturgical calendar as Laetare Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Lent to honour the Virgin Mary and the "mother church".[2]

During the sixteenth century, people returned to their mother church for a service to be held on Laetare Sunday. This was either a large local church, or more often the nearest Cathedral.[1] Anyone who did this was commonly said to have gone "a-mothering", although whether this preceded the term 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, or, more usually, since holidays had not been invented yet, that was the only day in the year that they were allowed off.[3]

By the 1920s, the custom of keeping Mothering Sunday had tended to lapse in Ireland and in continental Europe.[2] In 1914, inspired by Ann Jarvis' efforts, Constance Penswick-Smith created the Mothering Sunday Movement,[4] 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.[5][6] Its widescale revival was through the influence of American and Canadian soldiers serving abroad during World War II; the traditions of Mothering Sunday, still practiced 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.[2][7][8] 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.[7]

People from Ireland and the UK started celebrating Mother's Day, but on the same day that Mothering Sunday was celebrated, the fourth Sunday in Lent.[2] The two celebrations have now been mixed up, and many people think that they are the same thing.[3]

Mothering Sunday remains in the calendar of some Canadian Anglican churches, particularly those with strong English connections.


The other names attributed to this festival include Refreshment Sunday, Pudding Pie Sunday (in Surrey, England), Mid-Lent Sunday.[9] Simnel Sunday and Rose Sunday. Simnel Sunday is named after the practice of baking Simnel cakes to celebrate the reuniting of families during the austerity of Lent. Because there is traditionally a relaxation of Lenten vows on this particular Sunday in celebration of the fellowship of family and church, the lesser-used label of Refreshment Sunday is also used, although rarely today.

Rose Sunday is sometimes used as an alternative title for Laetare Sunday, as is witnessed by the purple robes of Lent being replaced in some churches by rose-coloured ones. The 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia asserts that "the Golden Rose, sent by the Popes to Catholic sovereigns, used to be blessed at this time, and for this reason the day was sometimes called 'Dominica de Rosa'."[10][11]

This Sunday was also once known as "the Sunday of the Five Loaves", from the traditional Gospel reading for the day. Prior to the adoption of the modern "common" lectionaries, the Gospel reading for this Sunday in the Anglican, Roman Catholic, Western-Rite Orthodox, and Old Catholic churches was the story of the feeding of the five thousand (for instance, the Anglican Book of Common Prayer stipulates St John's Gospel 6:5-14).


The Epistle for the fourth Sunday in Lent as set out in the Book of Common Prayer gives a special place to the theme of maternal love: Galatians 4:26 states that "Jerusalem which is above is free; which is Mother of us all."[1]

Another tradition associated with Mothering Sunday is the practice of "clipping the church", whereby the congregation form a ring around their church building and, holding hands, embrace it.

For some Church of England churches, it is the only day in Lent when marriages can be celebrated.

During the church services held in that day, it is traditional that children will give a bunch of spring flowers to their mothers.[9]


  • Nowadays the Simnel cake is strongly associated with this holiday.[12]:page 2
  • Around 1600, when the celebration was only held in England and Scotland, a different kind of pastry was preferred.
  • In England they served a cake called "Mothering Sunday Buns" with raisin and butter icing.
  • In Northern England and Scotland some preferred "Carlings", a pancake made of steeped peas fried in butter.[13]

Historical antecedents

Celebrations of mothers and motherhood occur throughout the world; many of these have histories can be traced back to ancient festivals. The origins of Mothering Sunday can be tracked back to these festivals.

There is evidence of mother goddess worship in the ancient world, dating back as far as 6.000 BC,[14]:376 and many mother goddess shrines could be found in ancient times in Asia minor.[14]:372

Ancient Greece imported the Mother Goddess cult from Asia Minor, in the form of a festival to Cybele, a great mother of Greek gods. It was held around the Vernal Equinox around Asia Minor. Originally they identified Cybele with Rhea, the mother of gods. The details were not recorded, and we only know that the goddess was attended by galli.[14]:374[15]

Ancient Romans appropriated the cult to Cybele/Rhea in order to absorb culturally the Greeks and the habitants of Asia Minor, honoring Cybele in the Hilaria festivals, from the Ides of March (15 March) to 18 March.[14]:371–375 But the Romans were horrified by the Greek celebrations; they quickly associated the cult to the Roman version of Cybele and they made up their own customs.[14]:373 They also made a separate festival in April dedicated to Magna Deorum Mater Idaea, a version of Cybele that was even further separated from Greek customs.[14]:373 The two goddesses, Cybele and Mater Idaea, were eventually merged into a single entity that was completely Romanized, although they kept using galli.[14]:374–375

The festivals of Cybele evolved into the Christian festival of Mothering Sunday, honouring the Virgin Mary and your mother church (the main church of the area)[16] It's now a long standing tradition, part of the liturgical calendar in several Christian denominations, including Anglicans, and in the Catholic calendar it is marked as Laetare Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Lent. Children and young people who were "in service" (servants in richer households) 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 them in the church or to give them to their mothers as gifts. Eventually, the religious tradition evolved into a secular tradition of giving gifts to mothers.[1] This festival survived in the UK and Ireland for longer than in other European countries, and it was repopularised in the 20th Century. Most people are unaware of its historical origins, and regard Mothering Sunday and Mother's Day as the one and same festival.[3]

Ancient romans had a different unrelated holiday, Matronalia, that was dedicated to Juno; it was intended to favor the fertility of married women.[17] Married women, independently of whether they were mothers or not, made private parties where they prayed for happiness in their marriages and prepared dishes for their female slaves. The husbands gave money and gifts to their wives and prayed for their pregnancy. It was complemented by the Saturnalia festival, where male slaves were given freedom and wives gave presents to their husbands.[18][19] It was celebrated when the harvests were planted.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e "Mothering Sunday", BBC,, retrieved 2010-03-04 
  2. ^ a b c d Irish Culture and Customs, Bridget Haggerty
  3. ^ a b c David Self (1993), One hundred readings for assembly, Heinemann Assembly Resources, Heinemann, pp. 27–29, ISBN 0435800418, 9780435800413, 
  4. ^ Archives suisses des traditions populaires (Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Volkskunde), 52, 1956, 
  5. ^ Michael Bache, Mothering Sunday. Constance Penswick Smith - (1878-1938), Coddington (Notts) History Group, 
  6. ^ The revival of Mothering Sunday,: Being an account of the origin, development, and significance of the beautiful customs which have entwined themselves ... true and ancient day in praise of mothers, Macmillan Publishers, 1921, ASIN B00086O8I6 
  7. ^ a b Ronald Hutton (2001), The stations of the sun: a history of the ritual year in Britain (illustrated, reprinted ed.), pp. 174–177, ISBN 0192854488, 
  8. ^ Owen Spencer-Thomas, How Mothering Sunday became Mother's Day, Diocese of Ely, 
  9. ^ a b Mandy Barrow (2010), Mothering Sunday. The UK's version of Mother's Day,,  (original location)
  10. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)
  11. ^ Golden Rose
  12. ^ "Mothering Sunday". Religion & Ethics ( Retrieved 2006-05-28. 
  13. ^ 簡世華 (2005). 寂天文化. ed. Western holidays and festivals. p. 133. ISBN 9575856759, 9789575856755.'s%20day%22&pg=PA133#v=onepage&q=greece%20%22mother's%20day%22&f=false. 
  14. ^ a b c d e f g Sarolta A. Takács (1996), "Cybele and Catullus' Attis", in Maarten Jozef Vermaseren, Eugene Lan, Cybele, Attis and related cults: essays in memory of M.J. Vermaseren, Religions in the Graeco-Roman world, 131 (illustrated ed.), BRILL, ISBN 9004101969, 9789004101968, 
  15. ^ from Vermaseren 1996, chapter "L'élément orgiastique dans le culte de Cybèle", by Panayotis Pachis, in French, pp. 196–222
  16. ^ L. James Grold (April 1968), "Mother's Day", American Journal of Psychiatry 124: 1456–1458, doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.124.10.1456, "Mother's Day, conceived by Anna Jarvis to honor unselfish mothers (...) Although there is no direct lineal descent to our modem Mother's Day custom, secular and religious holidays celebrating motherhood have existed for thousands of years. Cybele (...)" 
  17. ^ Matthew Dillon, Lynda Garland (2005), Routledge Sourcebooks for the Ancient World (reprinted ed.), Taylor & Francis, pp. 393–394, ISBN 0415224594, 9780415224598, 
  18. ^ Christian Roy (2005), Traditional festivals: a multicultural encyclopedia, 2, ABC-CLIO, p. 265, ISBN 1576070891, 9781576070895, 
  19. ^ Nicole Boëls-Janssen (1993) (in French), La vie religieuse des matrones dans la Rome archaïque, Collection de l'École française de Rome, 176, École française de Rome, p. 309, ISBN 2728302820, 9782728302826,, "Toutes les femmes mariées la célébraient, qu'elles eussent ou non des enfants, car aucune restriction ne nous est signalée à ce sujet. Translation: All married women celebrated it, whether they had infants or not, because no restriction has been pointed to us about this subject." 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Поможем решить контрольную работу

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Mothering Sunday — ► NOUN Brit. ▪ the fourth Sunday in Lent, traditionally a day for honouring one s mother …   English terms dictionary

  • Mothering Sunday — Mothering .Sunday n [U and C] BrE old fashioned ↑Mother s Day …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Mothering Sunday —    On Mothering Sunday, or Mid Lent Sunday (fourth Sunday in Lent), children and young people living away from their parents would make a point of going home for the day, taking presents, usually including a cake for their mother, and sharing a… …   A Dictionary of English folklore

  • Mothering Sunday — UK [ˈmʌðərɪŋ ˌsʌndeɪ] / US [ˌmʌðərɪŋ ˈsʌnˌdeɪ] noun [countable/uncountable] Word forms Mothering Sunday : singular Mothering Sunday plural Mothering Sundays British old fashioned Mother s Day …   English dictionary

  • Mothering Sunday — N UNCOUNT Mothering Sunday is the fourth Sunday in Lent, when children give cards and presents to their mothers as a sign of their love for them. [BRIT, OLD FASHIONED] Syn: Mother s Day …   English dictionary

  • Mothering Sunday — noun A day in honor of mothers and/or ones mother church, which falls on the fourth Sunday of Lent, exactly three weeks before Easter Sunday, especially in the United Kingdom and Ireland; compare a mothering Syn: MidLent Sunday, Mid Lent Sunday,… …   Wiktionary

  • Mothering Sunday —    A popular name used in England for the Fourth Sunday in Lent. It is supposed to have derived this name from the Epistle for the Day in which occur the words Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the Mother of us all. This no doubt gave… …   American Church Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Mothering Sunday — /mʌðərɪŋ ˈsʌndeɪ/ (say mudhuhring sunday) noun (in Britain) the fourth Sunday in Lent, originally a Christian festival, but secularised during the 20th century as a day on which people visit their mother and present them with a gift. See Mother s …  

  • Mothering Sunday — Brit. See Laetare Sunday. * * * …   Universalium

  • mothering sunday — n. British Mother s Day which is on the 4th Sunday in Lent …   English contemporary dictionary

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”