When is Mother’s Day 2021 and what are the origins of Mothering Sunday?

When is Mother's Day 2019 and what are the origins of Mothering Sunday?

When is Mother’s Day 2021 and what are the origins of Mothering Sunday?

Every year, Mother’s Day gives us the chance to celebrate our mothers – but the changing date means there’s a distinct possibility that you can get caught out.

Here’s when Mothering Sunday falls in 2021, the origins of the occasion and why it’s celebrated at different times around the globe.

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When is Mother’s Day 2021?

This year Mother’s Day falls on Sunday 31 March in the UK, with the date set by the celebration’s Christian foundations as Mothering Sunday.

It always takes place on the fourth Sunday in the festival of Lent, exactly three weeks before Easter Sunday.

The origins lie in the Middle Ages, when children who had left their families to work in domestic service were allowed to go to their home – or “mother” – church.

So initially, the “mothering” aspect of the occasion had no connection to the way mothers are celebrated today.

Flowers have been a fixture on Mother’s Day since its earliest Christian origins (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

However, the journey home inevitably became an occasion for families to reunite, with the custom developing for children to pick flowers en-route to give as a gift to their mothers.

Read more: 13 best Mother’s Day gifts for 2021

The date took on a further celebratory air because it was traditionally an occasion for the fasting rules of Lent to be relaxed, allowing revellers a long-awaited feast.

Consequently, it also became known as Refreshment Sunday, Simnel Sunday (after the simnel cakes traditionally baked in celebration) and, most evocatively of all (and only in Surrey): Pudding Pie Sunday.

The modern Mother’s Day owes a great deal to the holiday founded in the US (Photo: Getty Images)

How did ‘Mothering Sunday’ become ‘Mother’s Day’?

Today, most people know the occasion as “Mother’s Day” rather than the traditional “Mothering Sunday”.

This owes much to the American festival of Mother’s Day, which is held later in the year and has no religious connotations.

It was created in 1907 by Anna Jarvis, who held a memorial for her mother Ann Jarvis, a peace activist who treated wounded soldiers in the American Civil War.

Her daughter campaigned for a day to honour the role played by mothers following Ann’s death, and the idea gained such traction that by 1911 all US states observed the holiday.

In 1914, it had become so ubiquitous that President Woodrow Wilson declared Mother’s Day a national holiday “as a public expression of love and reverence for the mothers of our country”.

Mother’s Day rapidly became a major commercial opportunity, with Hallmark leading the way in manufacturing cards by the early 1920s.

Mother’s Day cards quickly became big business when the commercialisation of Mother’s Day took hold (Photo: Chris Hondros/Newsmakers)

Jarvis deeply resented the materialistic side of the holiday that she had created. The commodification of sentimental symbols like the white carnation led her to withering criticism and even to being arrested for protesting against organisations selling Mother’s Day merchandise.

While Mothering Sunday is technically a different celebration to Mother’s Day, the success of the US holiday led to a resurgence in the traditional observance after interest had waned in the early 20th century.

By the 1950s, the practices of the Christian festival had broadly merged with the commercial aspects of Mother’s Day, with the moniker gradually overtaking Mothering Sunday and the celebration becoming increasingly secular.

What date is Mother’s Day around the world?

Mother’s Day is now observed around the world, with the majority of countries taking their lead from the US practice of celebrating it on the second Sunday of May.

In 2021, this falls on 12 May, with almost 100 countries – including much of Europe, Africa and South America – following the American system.

Far fewer commemorate the fourth Sunday of Lent, although Nigeria joins the UK and Ireland in marking Mothering Sunday.

Other countries, including Russia, Vietnam and Afghanistan, commemorate mothers on International Women’s Day: 8 March.

Bolivia marks Mother’s Day on 27 May, the date of the Battle of La Coronilla, when women fighting for the country’s independence were slaughtered by the Spanish army in 1812.

Elsewhere, France – and many of its former colonies – celebrate mothers on the last Sunday of May, while Argentina marks “Dia de la Madre” on the third Sunday of October.

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