The History of Mother's Day

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When was the first Mother's Day?

The custom of remembering mothers can be traced back to ancient spring festivals, thousand of years ago in Greece and in Rome there are celebration that celebrates mothers.

In ancient Greece, there was a spring festival to honor the goddess Rhea, the mother of all gods. Rhea was the wife of Cronus, the god of time.

In ancient Rome there was a festival of Hilaria. This festival was in honor of the goddess Cybele, the mother of all the gods. Hilaria was held on 25 March, the first day after the spring equinox. A celebration which happens twice a year, when night and day are the same length. Lots of games were played and there was also a solemn procession in which a statue of Cybele was carried through the streets.

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The First Mothering Sunday

From the Middle Ages the Christian Church has set aside a special day to remember mothers. This was the middle Sunday of Lent. The Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus was celebrated on the earliest Mothering Sundays. People made a special visit to the church and brought offerings to the Virgin Mary.

The 'Mother Church' was also important on Mothering Sunday. Many villages were too small or too poor to have their own church and so several villages shared a large Mother Church some distance away.

On Mothering Sunday people went back to the Mother Church where they may have been baptized. Sometimes people from the larger churches went to visit the nearest cathedral on Mothering Sunday.

What is 'going a-mothering'?

Mothering Sunday also used to be known as "Refreshment Sunday', this allow people take a break from fasting. It was the only time when feasting and games were allowed out of the 40 days of Lent. It was a day when families got together. By the 16th century there are records of celebrations of children and grandchildren coming home to the family for a feast.

By the 18th and 19 centuries many children lived away from home as servants in the houses of wealthy. Servants had one day off a year and were encouraged to 'go-a-mothering' to go home and see their families.

Usually they would often take a present, it could be money, spring flowers or a mothering cake. There would be a celebration meal usually lamb or veal are served with a drink called furmety, which was made of wheat grains boiled in milk sweetened with sugar and flavored with cinnamon.

Children going home for Mothering Sunday would often take with them a 'mothering cake'. This was a cake specially baked for their mothers, although it was given on Mothering Sunday, it would often be saved and eaten on Easter Sunday at the end of Lent.

A mothering cake was usually a cake called a 'simnel cake that is made with flour colored with saffron, often had almond icing called marzipan on the top. Simnel cake is like a very rich fruit cake that was boiled in water, before being baked in an oven.

Flowers for Mom

Your Mother - Your Best Friend, she is always there for you, no matter what.
Your Mother - Your Best Friend, she is always there for you, no matter what. | Source

How did Mothering Sunday became Mother's Day?

By the First World War Mothering Sunday was being celebrated less and less. This was partly because workers had more holidays so families could meet together more regularly. By the Second World War Mothering Sunday had been almost forgotten.

The idea of a special day for mothers was revived when American soldiers came to Britain during the Second World War. They brought with them the traditions of the American Mother's Day. This tradition included sending cards, giving presents and flowers to mothers on their special day.

After the war had ended the new name of Mother's Day was used in Britain. Mothering Sunday was originally a celebration connected to religion and the Christian Church. The modern British Mother's Day has become much more about the family and actual mothers. It is celebrated by people of many faiths and is not just a Christian celebration.

Mother: the most beautiful word on the lips of mankind. -Kahil Gibran

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How did Mother's Day start in the USA?

In 1872 Julia Ward Howe, who lived in the USA suggested a special day for mothers.

The idea was finally started in 1907 by Anna Jarvis. She began a campaign to have a national Mother's Day. Anna's mother, Mrs Anna Reese Jarvis taught at Sunday school in the Methodist Church in Graftan, West Virginia. When her mother died, Anna persuaded her mother's church to celebrate a Mother's Day on the second anniversary of her death. It was the second Sunday in May. Anna Jarvis and her friends wrote to ministers, businessmen and politicians asking them to support a national Mother's Day.

By 1911 Mother's Day was celebrated in almost every state in America. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson announced that Mother's Day would be a national holiday and that it would be held on the second Sunday of May.

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Comments 2 comments

Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 4 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

I remember baking a yeast based cake for my mother for Mothering Sunday a long time ago. So different from today's mothers day/


carol7777 profile image

carol7777 4 years ago from Arizona

I enjoyed reading this and learning. Thanks for sharing!

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