Mothers Day? Is it Just for Women?
So I was shocked to read that Helen Starkey, the headteacher of Johnstown Primary School in Wales, made the decision to ban Mothers Day. Well, in fairness, as I understand it, she has banned the children from preparing Mother’s Day cards, and any associated events. Her reason was not out of cruelty, but I suspect, more so as a result of falling prey to the advancement of America’s commercial marketing grasp on the rest of the world. According to Mrs Starkey, her reason was out of ‘sensitivity,’ as five percent of her students were separated from their natural birth mother.
Here in Britain Mother’s Day is actually known as Mothering Sunday, and is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent. However, it has no association with the American holiday in May known as Mother’s Day, or as some cynics call it, (me being the leader of that cynicism!) ‘Hallmark Day.’
The original translation from Latin is a derivative of ‘Refreshment’ or ‘Laetare Sunday,’ during Lent: the first words of the opening prayer of the Mass are Laetare Jerusalem (Rejoice Jerusalem), and honour is given to the Mother Church. The extension to actual mothers was gradual, and evolved at time when children, mainly daughters, who had gone to work as domestic servants, were given a day off to visit their family.
Now it is a day when children give presents, flowers, and cards to their mothers. But it can also be recognised, in its truest form, as a time to recognise those who practice the act of mothering. The dictionary defines ‘mothering’ as ‘to care for or protect.’ It is not gender specific. Unfortunately, as the distance between continents become shorter, the commercial aspects of this date overpower its broader and possibly purer origins.
‘Mothering’ comes from carers, nurses, male parents, or anyone who serves or cares for others, those who provide loving, nurturing care as if they were the mother to the individual. These people are so often forgotten or ignored and I find it heartbreaking that due recognition is seldom given. The individual who has cared for an invalid or elderly person, who needed mothering in its truest sense, may be forgotten this Sunday and at all other times.
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 the main church or Cathedral of the area.
Over time the return to the ‘mother’ church became an occasion for family reunions when children who were working away returned home. (It’s difficult to comprehend that less than a hundred years ago children who were as young as nine or ten would leave their village home to work in cities like London.)
And most historians believe 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 families. As they travelled along country lanes, children would collect wild flowers or violets to take to church or give to their mother as a small gift.
The American holiday, which has sadly become so commercialised, began in 1912 when an International Mother’s Day association was formed, as a result of the efforts of a Methodist spinster, who recognised the importance of strengthening family ties. The United States Congress passed a joint resolution marking the second Sunday in May as ‘their’ official ‘Mother’s Day.’ It was then proclaimed as a national holiday.
The American date failed to catch on in countries where the US didn’t have strong influence or control, because within the resolution was the mandate that the American flag be displayed on all homes and government buildings in reverence to the mothers of America. It just smelled a bit too nationalist for other countries.
No matter who it is that nurtures, cares for, supports, defends, helps and loves, they certainly deserve accolades of gratitude, praise and love. Today, above all, please don’t forget to recognise them, no matter where in the world you may be!
And if you simply can’t think of anyone at all….you could always hug a priest. There’s not enough of that either!
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