Mothering Sunday is held on the fourth Sunday of Lent, falling on 31st March this year. During the 16th century, people returned to their “mother church” – either the church where they were baptised, the local parish church or the nearest cathedral. Children and young people who were “in service” (household servants) were given a day off on that date so they could visit their mother and family. Along the way children would often pick wild flowers to take to the church or give to their mothers.
Technically speaking, Mother’s Day is a completely unrelated American event, invented by a woman called Anna Jarvis in 1908. Her initial inspiration was a desire to honour her own mother, who had been a militant peace activist during the US Civil War. In 1914 US President Woodrow Wilson officially signed Mother's Day into existence.
Despite its long existence in British culture, Mothering Sunday had fallen out of fashion by the 20th Century. A lady named Constance Penswick-Smith, inspired by the efforts of Anna Jarvis, thought the loss of Mothering Sunday was a great shame. She worked hard to regenerate interest, even writing a book called The Revival of Mothering Sunday. She also founded the Society for the Observance of Mothering Sunday. Her determination paid off, and the fading festival was restored to the culture of the country, only with much more of a focus on celebrating motherhood.
Mothering Sunday is now a day to celebrate mothers and other mother figures, such as grandmothers, stepmothers and mothers-in-law. Many people make a special effort to visit their mother. They take cards, flowers and gifts to her and may treat her to a special meal.
One of the most useful things a mother can receive is paid maternity leave from their employer. During this period, their employer will also continue to contribute to their pension.