Do you know the history behind Mothers Day?

Mothering Sunday, Mother’s Day, whatever you like to call it. It’s a special day in a Mums life, when she gets a lie in and gets pampered by her husband and Children/Grandchildren  – we all hope!

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Where did it start from, and what is its significance? It is a Pagan and Christian tradition that goes back centuries.

Christopher Howse of the Telegraph says that, “Every year, readers write to the Telegraph pointing out that the mid Sunday in Lent is not “Mother’s Day” but “Mothering Sunday”. Many blame America for introducing the former and making it commercial.” That’s how we in the UK like to know it, but where did it all start from?

The history of Mother’s Day

We can research the history of this event back to ancient times. It started off as a celebration of motherhood using Goddesses and symbols in ancient spiritual rites such as mythological female deities and now only in the last few hundred years we have celebrated real human mothers and only in the 20thcentury the idea of a commercial celebration has been borne.

The earliest evidence of the celebration of motherhood comes from the early Egyptians. The Goddess Isis was honoured in an annual festival being renouned as the Mother of the Pharaohs. Her son Horus became the first ruler of a united Egypt. Isis is also seen in Roman temples and she was the centre of their three day celebration to mark an important battle and the beginning of winter. This celebration was centred around mostly female dancers, musicians and singers.

It wasn’t until the 16thCentury when Christianity started to spread throughout Europe that these ancient Roman festivals started to fade out and be replaced. Hilaria traditions were taken on by the Laetare Sunday celebration which was the fourth Sunday in Lent. These early Christians used the day as a celebration of the Virgin Mary and the church where they were baptised which was known as their ‘Mother Church’. Jewels, flowers and other offerings would be placed in the church.

It was the 17thcentury that brought about ‘Mothering Day’ or ‘Lenten Sunday’ as the celebration that we are more familiar with. A clerical decree made the original celebration include real mothers and it became popular with the working classes as it became a day when the younger generation could take time off work to go and visit their families. It also was a day off from Lent, so families would celebrate with a good roast dinner and Mothers would be given flowers, cakes and of course celebrate their children coming to visit.

Mother’s Day as we know it in modern times.

In the USA, most noteably it was Anna Jarvis who started it off in 1908 when she held a memorial for her mother. She campaigned to make Mother’s Day a recognised holiday in the US when her mother died. She wanted to honour her mother by continuing her work, which was as a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the Civil War. Anna’s campaign included letters to people in powerful positions and lobbied them to declare an official day for mothers. By 1911 it was celebrated in almost every state in the UK and on May 8th1914 the President signed a resolution designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

In the UK, the modern Mothering Sunday can be attributed to Constance Smith (1878-1938), who read about Anna Jarvis and her campaign for Mothers in the US. She was a High Anglican who believed that ‘a day in praise of mothers’ was expressed by the Church on the fourth Sunday of Lent as the lesson states, “Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.” She wrote a book The Revival of Mothering Sunday in 1920 which gained momentum through the loss of many sons in the first world war. She believed that it should not be limited to the church and encouraged it to be spread via the Scouts and the Guides. In 1938, Cordella Moyse who founded the Mothers’ Union said that, “it was claimed that Mothering Sunday was celebrated in every parish in Britain and in every country of the Empire.”

Interestingly enough neither Constance nor Anna ever had their own children.

How it is seen now

When Anna Jarvis died over 40 countries celebrated Mother’s Day.. Today it is over 70 including the UK, US, India, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Australia, Mexico, Canada, China, Japan and Belgium. Many countries adapted the US tradition with their own cultural additions and other countries have carried on the British traditions.

Other countries have ignored the religious ideas and celebrate women’s issues and rights on International Women’s Day.

The size of the celebration however does vary a lot. Research has shown that in some countries, it is potentially offensive to one’s mother not to mark Mother’s Day whereas in others it is a little known festival that is only noticed by the media to show what other cultures are doing.

So, what presents to get?

There are many different ideas for Mother’s Day presents throughout the world. Different countries have their own specific traditional ideas, yet there are common themes amongst everyone. It seems however that whatever time in history it is or whatever country you are in, flowers and cakes are on the menu!

In Argentina, children honour their mothers with dinner, poems and special attention. They write letters, draw cards and make crafts to take home. The husbands cook and clean and look after the children so that Mum can relax. Presents bought include flowers, sweets or chocolate, jewellery and cards.

In France, the most common gift is a cake decorated with sugar flowers. Other presents include flowers, perfume and cards.

So, what are you going to give your mother this year?

Flowers are always a winner, and a mixed bouquet is always bright and cheerful.

A gift basket could be a good choice, as you can tailor it to special items that you know your mother really likes. Cakes and chocolates are always a lovely treat too.

Accessories can work too, especially if she is a working Mum and you can get her something that makes her life easier or more organised, like a tablet or a new handbag as you know her old one is knackered!

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However, most Mums will appreciate more the time you take to be with her especially if you have grown up and flown the nest, it will be fantastic for her to spend quality time with her.

Or how about a day off for her, from planning her day so that everyone else mucks in and does everything she normally does, or you give her a day trip out or a spa visit. Think about the last time she went to the hairdressers or got her nails done.

Why not commission a lovely painting, still time for Mothering Sunday. call 07861 801 063 see art ideas via my website

f you would prefer to buy your Mum a present that she can open, maybe you need to post something to her as you will not get to see her on the day, then can offer my hand made candles and skin care products. 

Maybe you would like to buy your Mum a beautiful hand painted card or a limited edition hand painted print. From cityscapes to trees of life, from landscapes to fat cats, I hope you will find something to enjoy, perhaps as a special gift for your Mum for Mother’s Day.


All of these gifts are available from the Nucleus Arts Centre or Thumb Nail Media.

You can buy blank greetings cards and prints from

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