Friday, May 10, 2013

Going A-Mothering

Mother’s Day is coming here in the U.S. I have been told with good authority that my Mother’s Day present will consist of something cinematic with dinner to follow. They know I like to be prepared. But some young ladies and gentlemen in the early nineteenth century in England also liked to be prepared, for Mothering Sunday.

From the seventeenth century, Mothering Sunday was celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent (which was March 10 in 2013). The original idea appears to be to celebrate services with the largest church, or mother church, in the area, like a cathedral, or at least to return to the church in which you were baptized. The practice was called going a-mothering. Most likely, however, in going to this church, you spent time with family, especially your mother. This tradition gradually evolved (with some help after World War I) into a celebration of mothers in general.

The practice was waning in the nineteenth century, but it still wasn’t uncommon for young servants and apprentices to be given Mothering Sunday off to go visit their families. It was said that many a young lad gathered flowers in the fields along the way to take home to his mother. As Mothering Sunday can fall as early as the beginning of March, I’m not entirely sure there were always many flowers blooming except daffodils, but it’s a lovely sentiment all the same.

In some households, apparently, cooks allowed the youngsters to bake a cake to take home to Mother. In some parts of England, the cake is called a Simnel cake, for the fine flour from which it was baked. It involves marzipan, fruit, and frosting, and had eleven knobs on the top to represent the eleven apostles who stayed true. I must admit, it looks particularly tasty to me. Some people felt it appropriate to break the Lenten fast to partake (oh, me! me!); some saved the cake for Easter Sunday. Other parts of England had sweet buns called Mothering Buns that were frosted and covered with sprinkles.

Okay, so maybe I should request that Mother’s Day present to involve cake. Who’s with me?


Christy Lynn said...

As someone currently living in England, I can tell you that this year at least, Mothering Sunday arrived too early for even the daffodils. It was a cold, late spring here so the daffs didn't arrive until late March! Might have been a few late snowdrops and possibly some crocus for that bouquet, though.

Regina Scott said...

Thanks, Christy Lynn! I was in England a few years ago when Mothering Sunday was early, but no daffs until late March is, well, late! It seemed like a lovely event, though.