Viewpoint from Rev Roger Key for 22nd March 2013
Rev Roger Key
Vicar, St Margaret's Church, Hopton
Mothers’ Day / Mothering Sunday – are they the same thing?
Not really, but they do have a lot in common, in that they share the same date each year and they both concentrate on giving thanks for Motherhood and they both have the possibility of trying to make the day special for our own Mothers.
But that is where the similarity ends.
Mothers’ Day, like Fathers’ Day and Secretaries’ Day and Thanksgiving Day are Americanisms that have entered into our usage on this side of the Atlantic with different strengths of response. They are essentially part of the American psyche and as such provide opportunities for entrepreneurs to turn the odd dollar or two in their favour by supplying greetings cards, flowers and a wide variety of items for sale that pamper and treat.
Mothering Sunday, being the fourth Sunday in Lent, is generally seen as a softening – albeit briefly – of the rigours of the fasting and prayer regime of those Forty Days and Forty Nights. Some Churches even change the colour of the hangings and vestments from Purple or Lenten Array to that of the softer shade of Rose for the occasion.
It has been said that this Sunday was also traditionally the day on which people who were in domestic service or serving out their apprenticeships were let off their duties early to enable them to visit their homes and families before Easter. Sometimes it was allowed for those in domestic service to make a cake to take home with them – hence the tradition of the Simnel Cake which Wikipedia describes as follows:-
“Simnel cakes have been known since at least the medieval times. They would be eaten on the middle Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (also known as Refreshment Sunday, Mothering Sunday, Sunday of the Five Loaves, and Simnel Sunday), when the forty day fast would be relaxed. More recently, they became a Mothering Sunday tradition, when young girls in service would make one to be taken home to their mothers on their day off. The word simnel probably derived from the Latin word simila, meaning fine, wheaten flour…….. [Semolina springs to my mind here!]
………“Different towns had their own recipes and shapes of the Simnel cake.Bury, Devizes and Shrewsbury produced large numbers to their own recipes, but it is the Shrewsbury version that became most popular and well known.”
Another tradition which arose was that the young people, en route to their homes, would pick posies of flowers along the way and would place their floral offerings in their Parish Church as they passed, thereby acknowledging the Mothering and nurturing aspect of that institution in the development and maintenance of their faith. This too was sometimes linked to a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the example of sacrificial motherhood that she embodies, particularly in the midst of the sufferings and passion of her dear son, Jesus. For many of them there was even a direct correlation with that love and the love of their own dear mothers.
So, whether you are marking an old English Church tradition or simply enjoying a chance to show your own Mum your deep gratitude towards her, or even if you are being syncretic and having the best of both, do have a very special time together as we all look forward, as the Church Family, to celebrating the great Festival of Easter Day.