BBC – Religions – Christianity: Mothering Sunday

A posy of flowers

BBC – Religions – Christianity: Mothering Sunday

Mothering Sunday

Find the date for Mothering Sunday 2014 in the multifaith calendar

A posy of flowers
Mums are traditionally given flowers ©

Mothering Sunday is the fourth Sunday of Lent. Although it’s often called Mothers’ Day it has no connection with the American festival of that name.

Traditionally, it was a day when children, mainly daughters, who had gone to work as domestic servants were given a day off to visit their mother and family.

Today it is a day when children give presents, flowers, and home-made cards to their mothers.

History of Mothering Sunday

Most Sundays in the year churchgoers in England worship at their nearest parish or ‘daughter church’.

Centuries ago it was considered important for people to return to their home or ‘mother’ church once a year. So each year in the middle of Lent, everyone would visit their ‘mother’ church – the main church or cathedral of the area.

Inevitably the return to the ‘mother’ church became an occasion for family reunions when children who were working away returned home. (It was quite common in those days for children to leave home for work once they were ten years old.)

And most historians think that it was the return to the ‘Mother’ church which led to the tradition of children, particularly those working as domestic servants, or as apprentices, being given the day off to visit their mother and family.

As they walked along the country lanes, children would pick wild flowers or violets to take to church or give to their mother as a small gift.

Children of the Gospel

Another thought is that the name comes from one of the Bible readings for that day, which refers to motherhood in a different way.

The writer of the text wanted to explain to the Galatian community what their relationship as Christians was to the Jewish Law.

In the full passage (Galatians 4:21-31), the two children born by Hagar and Sarah to Abraham are seen as symbolising two promises from God.

One is the Law (or Torah), which is restraining and earthly. The other is the Gospel, which is spiritual and liberating. The Galatians are told to regard themselves as children of Gospel.

The attitude that the passage displays to Judaism is uncomfortable to modern readers, but made perfect sense to its intended audience at the time it was written.

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