Mothering Sunday

Today, the fourth Sunday in Lent, is Mothering Sunday. From at least the seventeenth century, Mothering Sunday was the day when young apprentices and maidservants had the day off to visit their mothers. They would bring her a cake as a gift, often a traditional Simnel cake, and a small posy of spring flowers.


Easter itself is a moveable feast, indeed its actual date has been the subject of fierce debate for centuries. Britain follows the Gregorian calendar and Easter is always on the first Sunday after the first Full Moon after the spring equinox; so it can never be earlier than March 22nd or later than April 25th. This means, of course, that the weather for Mothering Sunday varies, too, so the posies would contain different flowers, depending on what’s out. This year, Easter is quite early, on April 1st. Next year, 2019, it is on April 21st, a late Easter.


Lent is a six week period of self-denial and Fasting in preparation for the church’s celebration of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Day. Six weeks is a long time and, in earlier centuries, it might well have felt interminable, especially if Easter were early and the weather wintry. A small celebration on the fourth Sunday must have been a welcome break, when your local church would hold a Mothering Sunday service and families got together for a special (but simple) meal.

English Bluebells

Mother’s Day in America has a different origin. It began in 1907, when a Miss Anna Jarvis of Philadelphia, who had recently lost her own mother, decided that a special day should be set aside each year to honour mothers. She began with a special service annually in her local church to remember her own mother and, after a lot of campaigning, Congress agreed in 1914 to recognize the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day throughout the United States.


My two children (bless them) sent me cards and I opened them this morning and put them on my mantelpiece in the place of honour.

Elizabeth Hawksley


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