Today is Mothering Sunday in Britain and a few other parts of the world.  The Mother’s Day will also occur in most other countries of the world but on different dates.   Like many celebrations it has trailed through more than one religion being originally related to Cybele, a Phyrgian mother goddess and precursor of spring.

As a Medieval Christian festival, the follower returned to their mother church, i.e. the church where they had been baptized.   Given the short life expectancy in early England many people would not have had mothers to return to in any case.  By the sixteenth century, it was well embedded and servants, who could as young as ten years old, had their annual day off to visit their mother taking the traditional Simnel cake, as the poet Herrick wrote :

‘ll to thee a Simnell bring
‘Gainst thou go’st a-mothering,
So that when she blesses thee
Half that blessing thou’lt give me.

We are only midway through lent at the moment, so the indulgent Simnel cake marks are temporary break with the fast that has been accepted since Medieval times.  Its origins are shadowy and surprisingly ancient.  Legends include invention by Lambert Simnel pretender to the Tudor throne and a cookery argument between siblings called Simon and Nelly.

The modern Mother’s Day has expanded, of course, and now the gifts are typically chocolates and flowers, the same gifts that might win the heart of a lady on Valentine’s day.  Since this has been the case a while now, I suppose these offerings are effective on the whole!

Not everyone has a Mother though and like most occasions, such as Christmas that seem synonymous with happy family gatherings, the day can be rather poignant or even sad.  I think I like the term Mothering Sunday better than Mother’s Day because anyone can be mothering to someone who needs it and nearly everyone has been mothered by a kind person, and it is that kind of warm feeling which is really being celebrated.    With that in mind, I believe it is perfectly acceptable to treat yourself and so I hope everyone enjoys Mothering Sunday.


Statue of Cybele

Statue of Cybele