Mothering Sunday: UK holiday has ties to US Mother’s Day

“I’ll to thee a Simnel bring
Gainst thou go’st a Mothering.”
Poet Robert Herrick, 17th century

SUNDAY, MARCH 30: Honor mums everywhere today—and no, we don’t mean the flowers—but mothers, on the UK holiday, Mothering Sunday. Tracing its origins back centuries, Mothering Sunday used to serve as a type of family reunion, when all members would attend services at the large cathedral in the area, or mother church. Today, the revived version of Mothering Sunday serves as an occasion to thank Mums across the UK for all that they have done. (Learn more at Follow UK.) Since its inception, Mothering Sunday has fallen on the fourth Sunday in Lent.


With its lengthy Christian tradition, Mothering Sunday is not the UK version of Mother’s Day—and in fact, the two holidays were completely unrelated until about a century ago. Mothering Sunday had been widely observed in earlier centuries, when participants were said to go “a-mothering,” and even children who were serving as domestic servants in other households were permitted to visit their families on Mothering Sunday. (Wikipedia has details.) Often, children would pick flowers on the walk home to see Mum (and the rest of the family), and would present the flowers to her. Yet by the early 20th century, Mothering Sunday had all but lost its popularity.

Did you know? The Bible reading for Mothering Sunday speaks of “the Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all …” (Galatians 4:26)

Inspired by a newspaper article she had read on the overseas work of American Mother’s Day creator and advocate Anna Jarvis, Contance Penswick-Smith created the Mothering Sunday Movement in 1914. In 1921, Penswick-Smith wrote a book, asking for revival of the holiday; by the time World War II arrived, American soldiers celebrating Mother’s Day had revived even more interest in the Mothering Sunday Movment. (The Telegraph recently reported on the history of Mothering Sunday.) By the 1950s, Mothering Sunday was celebrated across the UK—and it still is today.


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