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March 25, 2019

The origins of Mothering Sunday

Mothering Sunday is the fourth Sunday of Lent. Traditionally, it was a day when children who had gone to work as domestic servants were given a day off to visit their mother and family.

Happy Mother's Day

How did the tradition begin?

Most Sundays in the year, churchgoers in England worship at their nearest parish or 'daughter church'. Centuries ago it was considered important for people to return to their home or 'mother' church once a year. So, each year in the middle of Lent, everyone would visit their 'mother' church - the main church or cathedral in the area.

Inevitably, the return to the 'mother' church became an occasion for family reunions when children who were working away returned home. It was quite common for children to leave home for work once they were ten years old.

Most historians think that it was the return to the 'mother' church which led to the tradition of children, particularly those working as domestic servants, being given the day off to visit their mother and family. As they walked along the country lanes, children would pick wild flowers to take to church or give to their mother as a small gift.

One of the tastiest traditions of Mothering Sunday was the baking of Simnel cake. As well as an indulgence to make up for the austerity of Lent, it was a thoughtful gift to take home. Consisting of layers of cake and marzipan, a traditional Simnel cake also reflects the religious overtones of the event by being adorned with 11 balls of marzipan, representing all the disciples of Jesus, minus Judas.

Mother’s Day became a major commercial opportunity during the early years of the 20th century, with Hallmark leading the way in manufacturing cards in the early 1920s.