Sunday, 15 March 2015

Mothering Sunday

I'll always call it "Mothering Sunday" and not "Mother's Day" ... not so much to prove a point, but because the two are different ... one comes from a religious and community tradition in our history and the other is mostly a commercial event. On Mothering Sunday, people were released from work, and allowed to return to their "Mother" churches and communities, to be reunited with families and friends. There's more on the history below.

For me, to call "Mothering Sunday" "Mother's Day" is to wipe out the link with our past, but also to reduce it to the mere opportunity to buy specially labelled cards, flowers, chocolates, etc..

We can indeed celebrate Mothers on Mothering Sunday, and should - as that's part of the history - but also remember the wider community context of the event, and celebrate each other; celebrate being a part of a "mother" community that nurtured us.  And, of course, as part of that community, we need to be mindful of those for whom days like today may be difficult or fraught ... or simply those who feel that they are outside the "conventional" mould of motherhood or family:

Those who can't have children;
Those who have lost children;
Those who have lost parents;
Those who have been bereaved before childbirth;
Those who care for the children of others;
Those who are estranged from children or parents;
Those who - for other reasons - are no longer part of a family unit;
Those who are yet to start their families;
Those who are expecting children;
Those who are trying to form new families, with someone else's children;
Those who are separated from parents or children by work or military service;
Those who are separated from parents or children by war or violence;
Single-parent families;
Same-sex parents;
And those who I may have overlooked ...

You are valued today and every day, and are invaluable members of our community. Thank you for all you bring to our lives.

A bit of history, from Wikipedia (as on 15 March 2015):
During the sixteenth century, people returned to their mother church, the main church or cathedral of the area, for a service to be held on Laetare Sunday. This was either a large local church, or more often the nearest cathedral. Anyone who did this was commonly said to have gone "a-mothering", although whether this term preceded the observance of Mothering Sunday is unclear. In later times, Mothering Sunday became a day when domestic servants were given a day off to visit their mother church, usually with their own mothers and other family members. It was often the only time that whole families could gather together, since on other days they were prevented by conflicting working hours, and servants were not given free days on other occasions. 
Children and young people who were "in service" (as household servants) were given a day off on that date so they could visit their families (or, originally, return to their "mother" church). The children would pick wild flowers along the way to place in the church or give to their mothers. Eventually, the religious tradition evolved into the Mothering Sunday secular tradition of giving gifts to mothers. 
By the 1920s the custom of keeping Mothering Sunday had tended to lapse in Ireland and in continental Europe. In 1914, inspired by Anna Jarvis's efforts in the United States,Constance Penswick-Smith created the Mothering Sunday Movement, and in 1921 she wrote a book asking for the revival of the festival; Constance was the daughter of the vicar of Coddington, Nottinghamshire, and there is a memorial in Coddington's church. Its wide-scale revival was through the influence of American and Canadian soldiers serving abroad during World War II; the traditions of Mothering Sunday, still practised by the Church of England and Church of Ireland were merged with the newly imported traditions and celebrated in the wider Catholic and secular society. UK-based merchants saw the commercial opportunity in the holiday and relentlessly promoted it in the UK; by the 1950s, it was celebrated across all the UK. 
People from Ireland and the UK started celebrating Mother's Day on the same day that Mothering Sunday was celebrated, the fourth Sunday in Lent. The two celebrations have now been mixed up, and many people think that they are the same thing.