So this post comes a little early, on Sunday rather than the usual Monday, because today is rather special – our first Mothering Sunday.
Now Elphie might still be a little small to be cooking me up some scrambled eggs and serving them to me in bed (thinking about it now, I think my Mum only got such Hallmark-worthy treatment a couple of times); and she’s a bit young to associate me with the word “Mother” or even “Mama”, so this Mother’s Day is more about the symbolic transition into motherhood that has been made than the sacrifice on the altar of my maternal wonder that will be Elphie’s honour in years to come.
Photo credit: Dumpaday.com
I do rather wonder if there will ever come time when I don’t step back and wonder where this child came from, whether this really was my life or some weird dream and how on earth I became old enough to be a mother and a relatively old mother at that (average mothers being 29)!
So onto the day itself: I have been hanging around with Alex a lot and have been vaguely talking about Mothering Sunday and Mother’s Day interchangeably to her, until she asked me, “Why do you keep calling it Mothering Sunday?”. This flummoxed me as I had kind of assumed everyone used that term, but apparently not so in America.
So I did a bit of research and it turns out that it was only sometime early last century that they have come to mean the same thing and prior to that Mothering Sunday wasn’t about mothers directly at least!
Ely Cathedral provides ahistory, but the potted version is that in the seventeenth century, Mothering Sunday was introduced on the fourth Sunday of Lent as a day when working children (work often started by the age of ten) had a day off and returned to their Mother church. By virtue of going back to their home church, they would also see their mothers and would traditionally bring her a simnel cake. It was also Refreshment Sunday when you could allow your Lenten fast to lapse (good thing too as there has been no fasting in my house today!).
The Internetz disagree about how Mother’s Day came to exist in the UK. One school of thought is that the revival came in the 1940s when American servicemen brought over their tradition of Mother’s Day as the second Sunday of May and would give their landladies presents and flowers as their surrogate mothers. Once the Americans left, a tradition had apparently been reborn but the date returned to that of the original Mothering Sunday.
The other theory is that having heard of Mother’s Day in the States, a lady called Constance Smith campaigned for the revival of Mothering Sunday to honour mothers.
So how did Mother’s Day start in the States? In May 1908 (maybe 1907 – again the internetz are at odds), Anna Jarvis held a service for all mother as her mother who had died a few years earlier (more internetz historical confusion as to exactly when) had requested, giving out carnations to remember their mothers with. She then spent years campaigning for Mother’s Day to be introduced nationally – and despite opposition got it introduced officially as the second Sunday in May by Woodrow Wilson in 1914 (maybe).
This triumphant campaign had a sad ending though, with Anna up in arms at the commercialisation of Mother’s Day spending all her money to try to save it from Hallmark hell and ultimately failing.
So how does it feel to be a mother on Mother’s Day? As one of my NCT group declared – it is kind of like having a second birthday, which is nice. It also makes you aware of the chain of life as you wish your mother a happy Mother’s Day while being wished it yourself.
Could have done without the clocks going forward though – my level of grump at Fred when his alarm clock woke me and Elphie up at a ridiculous hour to get up on a Sunday which sadly in reality was not so ridiculous, was not such a good start to the day. The best bit though, my hour long nap later in the day – sleep over simnel cake, every time.