Sunday, 3 April 2011

Mothers Day ....

Today was Mothers Day here in England, or "Mothering Sunday" to be more correct.

Mothering Sunday has been celebrated in the UK on the fourth Sunday in Lent since at least the 16th century and it was a day when the fasting rules were relaxed, perhaps in honour of the 'Feeding of the Five Thousand'.

No one is absolutely certain exactly how the name of Mothering Sunday began, however, one theory is that the celebration could have been adopted from a Roman Spring festival celebrating Cybele, their Mother Goddess. As Christianity spread, this "pagan" festival was adopted by Christians and it is known that on this date, about four hundred years ago, people made a point of visiting their nearest big church (the Mother Church) or the church in which they had been baptised.

Young girls and boys 'in service', as my own maternal grandmother was as a teenager, at the local Manor House or in a Mansion, were only allowed one day to visit their family each year. This was usually on Mothering Sunday. For some this could be a significant journey since their mother may have lived some distance away, indeed another town altogether from the Manor where they were put in to service. Often the housekeeper or cook would allow the maids to bake a cake to take home for their mother. Sometimes a gift of eggs; or flowers from the garden (or hothouse) was allowed.

The most favoured cake was the 'simnel cake':

‘I’ll to thee a Simnell bring 
‘Gainst thou go’st a mothering, 
So that, when she blesseth thee, 
Half that blessing thou’lt give to me.’
Robert Herrick 1648

The Simnel cake is a fruit cake. A flat layer of marzipan (sugar almond paste) is placed on top of and decorated with 11 marzipan balls representing the 12 apostles minus Judas, who betrayed Christ. It was not eaten on Mothering Sunday because of the rules of Lent, instead it was saved until Easter.

Herrick’s poem (quoted) is of particular interest to folklorists, being one of the earliest references to the Post-Reformation celebration of this festival.

(Sent from Samsung mobile)

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