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What exactly is the difference?
Mother’s Day and Mothering Sunday are commonly thought of as being the same thing. How often around this time of year do you hear an English person ask, with more than a hint of panic, when Mother’s Day is? But it’s not Mother’s Day they’re actually asking about. It’s Mothering Sunday.
The difference between the two lies in their origins. Mothering Sunday is a Christian holiday in some parts of Europe, which always falls on the last Sunday in Lent (hence the confusion and panic around its date).
Perhaps sadly, the holiday has had very little to do with mothers for most of its history, seeming to start during the 16th century as day for people to return to their mother church, the main church or cathedral in the area, rather than their actual mother.
Later, Mothering Sunday became a day off for servants to visit their mother church, and it was often the only day in the year when they would see their families. Children in service were also given the day off, and would pick wild flowers to place in the church or give to their mothers. This act might have evolved into our secular tradition of giving gifts to our mothers on Mothering Sunday.
l was born and spent my childhood days in Hagley, Worcestershire. In fact there are two Hagleys. One was at the top of the hill and West Hagley was at the foot of the hill. At the top of the hill and in Hagley Park was the large and prestigious home of Lord Cobham and family and in their park was a church which was called 'St John's the Baptist Church' Hagley, and it was here, not at St Saviours in West Hagley, that we went to for special events. One of these special events was 'Mothering Sunday'. It was a service in honour of the mother church etc and we children were each given a small bunch of violets to give to our mothers on that day. So it was a very simple occasion without any commercialism at all and that was that.
Our Mothering Sunday Service takes place on 4th Sunday in Lent and that is why it is on a different date to Mother's Day in America.