Happy Mothering Sunday – not ‘mother’s day’

Every year it gets more difficult to find a card for my mother which says

‘Happy Mothering Sunday’.

This year I scoured the card shops in our local town and found none – they all said Mother’s Day. (Though my brother (or his wife) – living in a larger town – did manage to find a ‘Mothering Sunday’ card so there are some still made)

Well, what’s the fuss? It just happens that my Mum likes the correct wording to reflect the history behind the day.

Indenture of 'poor child of the parish' John Roberts age 8 years, to learn 'Husbandry' 1797 (click to view)


From the sixteenth century Mothering Sunday used to be the only day that all the family could be together for families with children ‘in service’ as it was the only guaranteed day off.  This would affect  most families from yeoman class down.   Children as young as eight went into service, or went as an apprentice  in another household. Some went as maids of various levels, gardener’s boys, stable lads, and could work their way up through the hierarchy to cook, housekeeper, footmen, head gardener, etc.  Children of the ‘deserving poor’ were also placed in apprenticeships by the Parish Overseer’s of the Poor to learn things like Husbandry (looking after farm animals) or Housewifery (looking after the domestic duties of a farm-house – including things like cheese-making and milking)

Originally a church festival, and falling on the fourth Sunday of Lent, it was the day you returned to your ‘mother church’. Which, in much less mobile times, meant you went back to where your family lived. Along the way children would pick posies of wild flowers to give to their mothers, and some would be sent with a Simnel cake, to take home (if they were lucky)

I have spoken to elderly ladies from this village who remember picking primroses from the hedgerows to bunch and sell in the markets for Mothering Sunday – the money from this would buy them a dress for Easter (or, rather,  the fabric to make them a light-weight dress for Summer) This is a parish abundant in primroses even now.

Back to the history- so what happened to turn this ancient special day into Mother’s Day – was it just a short-hand way of saying it?

Afraid not- and this is why my Mum likes it to be known as Mothering Sunday. Mother’s Day is a different thing – created by an American lady in 1907 called Anna Jarvis in memory of her mother, Ann, a truly wonderful woman who set up Mothers’ Day Working Clubs in five cities to improve sanitary and health conditions. This new Mother’s Day is set on the second Sunday in May (closest to Ann Jarvis’ birthday) and was , later, to become known as International Mother’s Day.

In the UK observance of Mothering Sunday had lapsed by the time of the first world war, but, inspired by the success of Anna Jarvis in  the US, a revival of Mothering Sunday was brought about by Constance Penswick-Smith’s campaign called ‘The Mothering Sunday Movement’.  Businesses soon saw the potential and jumped in by promoting the day with cards and suggestions of gifts.


Our Church's Mothering Sunday posy

After the second world war, what with many Americans over here, and international companies and communications, before long the two traditions got blended together – and now we have Mother’s Day promoted on Mothering Sunday in the UK. I heard on the radio yesterday that Mother’s Day / Mothering Sunday is worth £1.6 billion to UK retailers, so no wonder.

Our village church holds a Mothering Sunday service – at which posies are given to all mothers, or to their children of all ages to give to their mothers – though not primroses from the hedgerows, today they are more likely to be locally grown daffodils.

And how did I sort out my problem of not being able to find an appropriately named card … I chose a beautiful card by a local botanical artist, Jo Totterdell, and applied my own words with a silver pen! (see top pic)  Mum was happy ….

How do you feel about the commercialisation of such days?

Are you a ‘Mothering Sunday’ or a ‘Mother’s Day’ person?

How do you like to celebrate Mothering Sunday?

You know I love to hear from you – do share


6 thoughts on “Happy Mothering Sunday – not ‘mother’s day’

  1. Well, if nothing else, your blog is certainly educational! I knew that my mother always referred to “Mothering Sunday” but I thought it was just an old fashioned way of saying Mother’s Day…

    What a lovely card you found and made, though. And I hope you got cards yourself!

  2. Hi Krissi,
    I can’t help it … if I know it I share it … born a teacher.
    Just think of some of those children who only got to go home once a year, on this day, it must have been special for them and for their mothers.

    HaHa… no, I got phone calls, skype video-call and facebook messages! lol – modern life 🙂

  3. Oh wow! Thought I was the only one with this problem. Got told to get out of a card shop for asking for a card with ‘Mothering Sunday’ on rather than Mother’s Day!
    I also like to uphold the appropriate traditions, so you are not on your own Ann. xx

  4. Hi Karen
    What? Asked to leave te shop – huh? What is the world coming to?
    When I’ve asked at least they’ve only said that there were none available from the manufacturers / wholesalers.

    Though as my brother managed to find one (Hallmark incidentally) they must be there!

    Apparently the originator of ‘Mother’s Day’ abhorred the commercialisation of that – believing that home-made was a true tribute – perhaps, ironically, that is where the manufacturers of cards are driving us ‘Mothering Sunday’ people – back to pure simple heart-felt home made cards – their loss!

    thanks for commenting – Ann

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