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Mothering Sunday

posted 15 Mar 2009, 15:41 by St Lawrence C of E Church   [ updated 15 Mar 2009, 16:19 ]
The quote 'And bring her cheer, A-mothering on Sunday' is line from the charming Mothering Sunday Carol by George Hare Leonard (c. 1900):

It is the day of all the year,
Of all the year the one day,
When I shall see my mother dear
And bring her cheer,
A-mothering on Sunday.

So I'll put on my Sunday coat,
And in my hat a feather,
And get the lines I writ by rote,
With many a note,
That I've a-strung together.

And now to fetch my wheaten cake
To fetch it from the baker,
He promised me, for mother's sake,
The best he'd bake
For me to fetch and take her.

Well have I known, as I went by
One hollow lane, that none day
I'd fail to find -for all they're shy-
Where violets lie,
As I went home on Sunday.

My sister Jane is waiting-maid
Along with Squire's lady;
And year by year her part she's played,
And home she stayed,
To get dinner ready.

For mother'll come to church, you'll see-
Of all the year it's the day -
'The one,' she'll say,'that's made for me.'
And so it be:
It's every mother's free day.

The boys will all come home from town
Not one will miss that one day;
And every maid will bustle down
To show her gown,
A-mothering on Sunday.

It is the day of all the year,
Of all the year the one day;
And here come I, my mother dear,
And bring you cheer,
A-mothering on Sunday.

The Carol portrays a way of life that no longer exists, but does allude to the origins of Mothering Sunday.

In the 16th century, the Church required that people returned to their mother church or cathedral on the fourth Sunday in Lent for that day's service.

The day became known as Mothering Sunday, not through association with mothers, but because of the journey made to the mother church. And, in an age when children as young as 10 left home to take up work or apprenticeships elsewhere, this was often the only day in the whole year when families would be reunited.

By the 17th century, it had become a public holiday, when servants and apprentices were given the day off so that they could fulfill their duties to the Church and visit their families.

Money in those days was scarce, so a gift bought for their mother was often a bunch of violets or other spring flowers. This tradition continues today in many churches, where children take bunches of violets or spring flowers to be blessed at the altar before giving them to their mothers.

When all the family had assembled, they attended church together and, on their return, a special dinner was eaten.

Mothering Sunday was also known as 'Refreshment Sunday', 'Simnel Sunday' or 'Mid-Lent Sunday'.  It was often called Refreshment Sunday because the fasting rules for Lent were relaxed, in honour of the 'Feeding of the Five Thousand' from the Bible. Simnel Sunday is named after the Simnel Cake following a practice where young girls in service would make one to be taken home to their mothers on their day off.

Nowadays, Mothering Sunday is a day for being grateful for what's special about Mum - but it's also a day for being grateful for 'Mother Church' and what it's done for us over the centuries.