Before Mother’s Day

No! No! No! I would never forget Mother’s Day even  though I never heard of such an event until I came to Canada in 1948. Below the 49th parallel Mother’s Day was 34 years old by then with the second Sunday in May declared a national day to honour mother’s by USA President Woodrow Wilson in 1914.

Where I grew up in the middle of England we had paid the same tribute to those who brought us into the worldand nurtured us through childhood and beyond since at least the 16th Century. But we called it Mothering Sunday and celebrated the event on the fourth Sunday of Lent which falls three weeks before Easter Sunday in late March or early April each year.

Although Mothering Sunday had been around since medieval times it had fallen from pre-eminence by the early 1900’s. It was still on the Anglican Church calendar but over-shadowed by Lent and Easter celebrations until Constance Smith, a High Anglican activist, read of the successful efforts of one Anna Jarvis to win presidential approval to create a Mother’s Day in the States.

It’s worthy of note that neither lady ever became a mother but both were determined motherhood deserved high and solemn recognition. It is not without significance that Mother’s Day in the USA and the resurgence of Mothering Sunday in the UK were fuelled by battlefield slaughters of WW 1 with millions of mothers bearing the grief for lost sons and sometimes daughters.

Governments and churchgoers throughout what was then the British Empire, the United States of America and much of Europe sought to comfort them with hymns and prayer. When I became old enough to raise my angelic boy soprano with St. Mary’s Church choir Mothering Day was a solemn occasion. Not sad. Solemn – a day of tribute and praise to Motherhood.

I don’t remember ever buying a Mother’s Day gift for my mother. I do remember being scrubbed cleaner than clean for the church services and my mother wearing her best dress – and a special day crisp white pinafore to protect it during final chores before service. We gave thanks, not presents.

Such simplicity vanished long ago. Started to vanish, in fact, within a few years on Mother’s Day being instituted. Ms. Jarvis, the woman responsible for its creation in the US, rejected the growing commercialism of what she had wanted to be – as Mothering Sunday had once been – a day of sincere thanks and praise with the presentation of small gifts of cake or bread. In her later years she is said to have referred disparagingly to the day as “ Hallmark Sunday” and said of people who sent their mother’s pre-printed cards: “ A printed card means nothing – except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone else in the world.”

And that’s the way it was back when Mother’s Day began as Mothering Day, and again when it was revived in the 1900’s. Not necessarily better than today’s celebrations but maybe a little more thoughtful and  without the cash register ring.


  1. Luv it ,, in our local church in Oak Bay we always celebrated Mothering Sunday and even had a Simnel cake made including flowers given to woman by the children.
    Well it stopped for a decade and all of a sudden our Minister announced to us on Mothers Day that he would rather call it , guess what ” Mothering Sunday ” 🙂 We do have the children make flowers and give to each woman in the church, many smiles.. Now if I could get them to make that Simnel cake again .

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