Mothering Sunday: What has it got to do with Church? 

Each year on the fourth Sunday of Lent, countries around the world celebrate Mothering Sunday. This typically involves lavishing Mums with gifts and attention and celebrating the women who have nurtured us throughout our lives. But with the day becoming increasingly commercialised, are you aware of its very different origins?

Here are some of the traditions that have shaped Mothering Sunday into the celebration recognised today:

The Journey to the Mother Church
In the 16th century, Mothering Sunday was less about mothers and more about church. Back then, people would make a journey to their ‘mother’ church once a year. This might have been their home church, their nearest cathedral or a major parish church in a bigger town. The service which took place at the ‘mother’ church symbolised the coming together of families. This would have represented a significant journey for many.

A day off to visit Mother
Another tradition was to allow those working in the fields on wealthy farms and estates in England to have the day off on the fourth Sunday of Lent to visit their mothers and possibly go to church too. This was a variation on the theme of visiting the 'mother' church and was a move towards a more family focused occasion. Before the days of cars and roads, family get-togethers were far more rare. In some ways this tradition is still alive today as grown up children often visit their parents on Mothering Sunday.

Simnel Cake
Simnel cake has a strong affiliation to Mothering Sunday as it is usually associated with spring and Easter. It resembles a Christmas fruit cake but should be slightly lighter in texture. The other difference is the two layers of marzipan. Simnel cake should have a layer of marzipan running through the middle like a victoria sponge and then another layer of marzipan on the top. Traditionally, you should also roll some marzipan into eleven eggs and place these on the top. The eggs are supposed to symbolise the disciples who followed Jesus – note that Judas is excluded. The question is, do you boil or bake your simnel cake? Some say it’s necessary to do both because of an argument from folktale where two people could not agree on the correct way to cook the cake.  Here is a recipe to try if you would like to make your own Simnel cake

Traditions today
Families across the country will be preparing little presents and cards ready for this Sunday (27 March). On the day children may make breakfast in bed for their mothers (leaving all the mess to be cleared up later!) and families come together to have a special celebration.

At Bishop Ridley, our preparations are also underway. Posies of flowers are being made up, ready to be blessed and handed out during the 10:30am service. During the service we will be celebrating and giving thanks for the huge impact mothers - and all those with a mothering role - have on each of our lives. But we also recognise that the day may be difficult for some people and try to be sensitive to this through our prayers for those who don’t find the day particularly easy. If we can pray for you please let us know by emailing

Article based on this Church of England article

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