In Ireland, Mother’s Day is celebrated on Laetare Sunday – the fourth Sunday in Lent.
Mother’s Day in America, and many other parts of the world, is celebrated on the second Sunday in May. It has a different origin to Mothering Sunday in Ireland and Britain. See below.
Originally known as Mothering Sunday, it is thought to have developed from the Christian tradition of visiting the ‘mother church’ (a cathedral or large church where a person was baptised) on Laetare Sunday.
Children who had gone to other villages to work as apprentices or domestic servants were given time off to visit the church. Some employers gave the children ‘hand-me-down clothing’ for them to give to their mother as a gift.
Families were reunited. People were said to have gone ‘a-mothering’.
The children picked wild flowers which were displayed in the church. These flowers were given to mothers at the end of the service.
This grew into the tradition of honouring mothers and giving gifts.
Relaxing the Lent Fast
Lent lasts from Ash Wednesday until Good Friday. During Lent people traditionally fasted, and didn’t eat sweet, rich foods or meat (this is why pancakes are eaten on Shrove Tuesday – to eat up all the rich food in the house).
The Lent fast was relaxed on Mothering Sunday and a simnel cake was at treat for the family on this day. A simnel cake is a fruit cake with a layer of marzipan in the middle and on the top. It is decorated with 11 marzipan balls that represent the twelve disciples minus Judas. It is also a traditional Easter cake.
Mothering Sunday was also known as Sunday of the Five Loaves, and Simnel Sunday.
Religion does not play a large part of the celebration today, but the tradition of giving flowers and gifts to mothers remains.
American Mother’s Day
Mother’s Day began in America in the early 20th century. Anna Jarvis’ mother had died on May 9 and she held a memorial for her.
She campaigned to make ‘Mother’s Day’ an accepted holiday in America to celebrate the love and work of mothers.
In 1914, President Woodrow made the second Sunday in May Mother’s Day. It now celebrated all over the world.
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