To all our beloved Mums... Happy Mother's Day!
No, we're not a month early. Sunday, April 3rd is "Mothering Sunday," which is celebrated in the UK and parts of Europe, and we at Circle of Mums love our international mothers!
Keep reading to learn why Mother's Day is celebrated on different days around the world, how Simnel cakes made their way into the mix, and how a childless American woman helped rekindle Mothering Sunday in the UK.
How It All Started
The concept behind Mothering Sunday goes back to the Roman Empire, when the "Hilaria" festival was held in mid-March to honor the mother goddess Cybele. When Europe and the Roman Empire converted to Christianity, this festival was changed to honor the Virgin Mary and the "Mother Church" on the fourth Sunday in Lent.
During the sixteenth century, it was common for people to return to their "Mother Church" (the main church or Cathedral in their area) for a service to be held in the middle of Lent. Many historians speculate that this led to the custom of giving children, particularly those who were domestic servants or apprentices, the day off to visit their mothers and families.
Despite this tradition, the celebration of Mothering Sunday had generally died out by the 1930s.
On the other side of the Atlantic in the meantime, several different groups and committees were trying to find ways to recognize mothers. It wasn't until Anna Marie Jarvis campaigned to establish Mother's Day as a U.S. holiday in the early 1900s that it became an official holiday. Anna Jarvis was not a mother looking for recognition— in fact, she never married, remained childless, and died in poverty. Her motivation for creating this holiday was her own mother, Ann Jarvis, who was a nurse during the Civil War and saved thousands of lives on both sides of the war by promoting better sanitation. One of the first Mother's Day celebrations was in 1908 when Anna invited friends over to commemorate her late mother's life.
Mother's Day finally became an official cultural institution when the American state of West Virginia declared it a holiday in 1910, and in 1914 President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation declaring the first national Mother's Day.
How did the American holiday ripple its way across the pond? Well, when American and Canadian soldiers served abroad during World War II, they started to spread the tradition of celebrating their moms on the second Sunday in May. People in Ireland and the UK took up the charge and began celebrating Mother's Day again. Keeping with tradition, they observed it on the traditional fourth Sunday of Lent rather than in May.
Simon + Nell = Simnel Cakes?
Simnel cakes have been around since medieval times and have long been associated with Mothering Sunday. Traditionally, young girls brought these cakes home when they went to visit their families.
Popular legend holds that a married couple named Simon and Nell argued over whether the cake for Mothering Sunday should be baked or boiled. In the end they both baked and boiled them, and the resulting confections were named Simnel as a tip of the hat to both husband and wife. However, experts think the word simnel was probably derived from the Latin word simila, which is the fine, wheaten flour from which the cakes were made.
These days, every family creates their own traditions. What does yours do on Mother's Day?