Mothering Sunday and Mother’s Day

I bought two cards when I was recently travelling for a conference. One card to celebrate my Mum on Mothering Sunday and one card for me to give to Martin for Eleanor to send to me.

I gave it to Martin a couple of weeks ago and when I woke up this morning after a night celebrating an Irish win in the six nations and an evening of Irish traditional music, Eleanor came into the room and handed me my card with a kiss and hug.

Now I may have bought the card myself… but the sentiments in it are entirely Eleanor’s!

I may not have two birthdays but I might eek out Mother’s Day and have two – the other one being when seemingly the rest of the world celebrate mothers and motherhood.

So why does the UK have a different date?

Mothering Sunday in the UK is marked on the fourth Sunday of Lent, three weeks before Easter Sunday. And it has nothing originally to do with being a mother.

In bygone days traditionally it was when people returned to their “mother church” where they were baptised on Laetare Sunday – the fourth Sunday of the season of Lent in the Christian liturgical calendar. The effect was that servants and others would travel back to their families and therefore while honouring their local church it was reuniting mothers with their children for a day. By the 1920s this common practice had lapsed in the UK, Ireland and many other European countries.

Mother’s Day is now an interchangeable name with Mothering Sunday but Mother’s Day was first and foremost an American concept with Woodrow Wilson pronouncing it as a holiday in 1914 after a three year campaigning session by Anna Jarvis.

Jarvis’ efforts were noticed in the UK by a minister’s daughter Constance Penswick-Smith who founded the Mothering Sunday Movement and eventually the businessmen got in on the act seeing commercial value in the day and so now Mothering Sunday and Mother’s Day are pretty much the same. Save that one is in March though in 2011 it was in April due to Easter being very late and the other is celebrated on the second Sunday in May.

Wherever you are in the UK in February and March you can’t fail to notice the advertising for the day for cards, flowers, chocolates all putting pressure on those to honour the day.

When doing a bit of research for the blog this morning, wikipedia mentions that ex-communist countries celebrate International Women’s Day but Ukraine celebrates both. On Thursday for International Women’s Day I was given a free yoghurt by the dining hall staff, in other years our female director gave us all a Starbucks. Now we have a male director there was no such treat!

Whatever your preference for celebrating the day – you don’t need to wait for a Sunday in lent or in May to say thank you to recognise all the great women around you irrespective of their motherhood status.

Thanks Mum.

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