Mothering Sunday


Mothering Sunday
   On Mothering Sunday, or Mid-Lent Sunday (fourth Sunday in Lent), children and young people living away from their parents would make a point of going home for the day, taking presents, usually including a cake for their mother, and sharing a meal with their family before returning. This day was particularly important for apprentices, live-in farmworkers, and girls in service, and it was generally accepted that they had a right to the day off. The earliest two references to the custom come hard on the heels of each other in the mid-17th century:
   Every Midlent Sunday is a great day at Worcester,
   when all the children and god-children meet at the head and cheife of the family and have a feast. They call it the Mothering-day'. (Diary of Richard Symonds, 1644) and, in Robert Herrick's oft-quoted poem A Ceremonie in Glocester: Tle to thee a Simnell bring, 'Gainst thou go'st a mothering' (Hes-perides, 1648).
   The first two references are thus from the same western side of the country and support the idea that this was a regional custom which later spread to other parts of western and midland England (and Wales) but was never universal. Several writers make a point of saying that they had never heard of it before, for example in N&Q. (4s:5 (1870), 399-400) and Gentleman's Magazine (1784: 343), but it persisted into the early 20th century in some areas. The visiting gradually died out as living-in with employers became a rarity. The elements that are almost always mentioned are the foodstuffs; either the items taken by the returning youngsters, or the traditional dishes eaten at the home, and variant names for the day were often derived from the food involved.
   Several authorities maintain that the ultimate origin of the day is to be found in a previous Church custom in which parishioners went in procession at mid-Lent to visit their Mother Church - hence the name Mothering Sunday. There is no proof either way, but given the regional nature of the family-visit Mothering Sunday it seems unlikely that there is a connection between the two customs.
   During the later 20th century, a subsidiary custom developed, based on the local church, with clergy handing out little posies of flowers, and sometimes pieces of cake, to children to give to their mothers. But a much stronger influence came from the USA, from where the invented *Mother's Day was introduced soon after the Second World War, although it was placed on Mid-Lent Sunday rather than the fixed American date. Most British people now use the term Mother's Day, although churchgoing families still tend to call the day Mothering Sunday. It is likely that the latter term will continue to lose ground to the more widely used Mother's Day.
   ■ Charles Edward Long (ed.), Diary of the Marches of the Royal Army During the Great Civil War Kept by Richard Symonds (Camden Society, 1859), 27; Wright and Lones, 1936: i. 42-51; Hutton, 1996: 174-7.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Mothering Sunday — ► NOUN Brit. ▪ the fourth Sunday in Lent, traditionally a day for honouring one s mother …   English terms dictionary

  • Mothering Sunday — Mothering .Sunday n [U and C] BrE old fashioned ↑Mother s Day …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Mothering Sunday — Not to be confused with Mother s Day. Gregorian dates for Mothering Sunday 2004 21 March 2005 6 March 2006 26 March 2007 18 March 2008 2 March 2009 22 March 2010 14 March 2011 3 April 2012 18 March 2013 …   Wikipedia

  • Mothering Sunday — UK [ˈmʌðərɪŋ ˌsʌndeɪ] / US [ˌmʌðərɪŋ ˈsʌnˌdeɪ] noun [countable/uncountable] Word forms Mothering Sunday : singular Mothering Sunday plural Mothering Sundays British old fashioned Mother s Day …   English dictionary

  • Mothering Sunday — N UNCOUNT Mothering Sunday is the fourth Sunday in Lent, when children give cards and presents to their mothers as a sign of their love for them. [BRIT, OLD FASHIONED] Syn: Mother s Day …   English dictionary

  • Mothering Sunday — noun A day in honor of mothers and/or ones mother church, which falls on the fourth Sunday of Lent, exactly three weeks before Easter Sunday, especially in the United Kingdom and Ireland; compare a mothering Syn: MidLent Sunday, Mid Lent Sunday,… …   Wiktionary

  • Mothering Sunday —    A popular name used in England for the Fourth Sunday in Lent. It is supposed to have derived this name from the Epistle for the Day in which occur the words Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the Mother of us all. This no doubt gave… …   American Church Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Mothering Sunday — /mʌðərɪŋ ˈsʌndeɪ/ (say mudhuhring sunday) noun (in Britain) the fourth Sunday in Lent, originally a Christian festival, but secularised during the 20th century as a day on which people visit their mother and present them with a gift. See Mother s …   Australian English dictionary

  • Mothering Sunday — Brit. See Laetare Sunday. * * * …   Universalium

  • mothering sunday — n. British Mother s Day which is on the 4th Sunday in Lent …   English contemporary dictionary