31st March 2019

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Mothers' Day or Mothering Sunday:

same or different?

Mothers' Day in its present form in the United States of America stems from a campaign in the early  20th century by Anna Jarvis after the death of her mother.  The first official service was held on May 12, 1907 in the Andrew's Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia.  In 1914 the U.S. Congress designated the second Sunday of May as Mothers' Day.


Mothering Sunday is the fourth or mid Sunday of Lent.  It stems from an old mediaeval custom of allowing apprentices to go back home their home town or village, to their 'mother' church, and to visit their mothers.  In most places this had died out by the end of the 19th century.  It was revived, partly in imitation of the newly invented American Mother's Day, in the 1920s as the result of a campaign by Constance Penswick-Smith, the daughter of a Midlands vicar.  The use of the term 'Mothers' Day' in the UK represents an importation of the American term - probably partly as card manufacturers can sell Mothers' Day cards both sides of the Atlantic.

One of the traditions of this day is the giving out of flowers to mothers in church. Traditionally this was violets, often it is a bunch of daffodils, at Holy Cross in recent years it has been a potted primula.  This year (because of how late it is) it was a bunch of carnations.  Quite coincidentally this is the usual flower given in the U.S.A. Often at Mothering Sunday services the care by mothers is celebrated.  At a time when life expectancy is growing, the theme needs to broaden from care by mothers to care for mothers. 


From time immemorial mothers have given themselves in sacrificial love for their children.  In our time we are learning what it means to care in a sacrificial way for mothers (and fathers too) in advanced old age.  We are also learning what it means in the community to look after those who have no family, or now physically close family, to look after them.  For many people being freed from looking after their own children and retiring from work leads not to idle retirement but to the often tricky task of 'mothering' one's own parents.

Energised to put the love of Christ into action