mothers

Its Mothers Day in the UK today. Or as its now known, ‘Mothering Sunday’. I have never been comfortable with this name. ‘Mothering’ sounds very close to ‘smothering’, and suggests the excessive, fawning attentiveness that hopefully most mothers are wise enough to resist.

What no one can argue with, is that there will never be enough thanks given to the millions of mothers worldwide who on a daily basis, put their own well being aside in order to best love and care for their children.

After a little research I have discovered that Mothering Sunday is in fact a much older festival, also known as Laetere Sunday among Christians. The word translates from the Latin laetare, singular imperative of laetari to rejoice. It comes in the middle of Lent, and traditionally was a day when the faithful relaxed their self imposed acts of self denial for a day and made merry, to honour the Virgin Mary, and the mother church.

Apparently a religious festival celebrating motherhood has existed in Europe since Neolithic times. In the Roman religion, a festival to honour the mother goddess Cybele took place in mid March.

Secularly, Mothers Day, honouring mothers and motherhood, is celebrated in many places on this day, but more commonly in May. In the US, it has been celebrated on the second Sunday in May since 1914, when Anna Jarvis’s campaign to have it nationally recognised finally succeeded.

What is unfortunate, though not surprising, is the commercialization of Mothers Day. By the 1920s, Anna Jarvis herself was bitterly disappointed at the speed with which her initiative had been corrupted.  She said, ‘A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A petty sentiment!’

Let us all do what we can to remember and be grateful.

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