Monday, 5 March 2018
Mothering Sunday: Christian or Pagan? Does it Matter?
The day always falls on the fourth Sunday of Lent, three weeks before Easter Sunday. The middle Sunday of Lent has long been associated with mothers in the Christian calender; as on that day - Laetare Sunday - it was traditional for people to return home to their mother church.
Mothering Sunday was formalised in the UK in the early 20th century when a vicar’s daughter named Constance Smith read a newspaper report of a campaign in America to celebrate such a day across the Atlantic.
So far, so Christian.
However, there are some suggestions the festival had pagan origins. The 1959 edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica gave this description of Mother's Day: "A festival derived from the custom of mother worship in ancient Greece. Formal mother worship, with ceremonies to Cybele, or Rhea, the Great Mother of the Gods, were performed on the Ides of March throughout Asia Minor."
That's definitely pagan.
Of course, just because festivals to honour mothers happened in Ancient Greece and Rome, doesn't mean there is any direct link to the Christian festival. The fact that the happen at about the same time of year could just be coincidence.
American Mother's Day, in May, is considered a secular holiday.
But does it matter whether the festival is purely Christian or has pagan roots, or if other countries have secular days at different times of the year to honour mothers? Personally, when my mother was alive, I would always bring her a gift for Mother's Day and usually take her out for Sunday lunch. I did it because I wanted to make my mum happy.
The other issue is whether Mothering Sunday is too commercialised these days. It is estimated that close to £1.5 billion was spent on Mother’s Day last year, in 2017. That figure includes money spent in shops and also dining and entertaining. It is clearly big business.
However, research suggests that mothers aren’t bothered about receiving a lavish gift on the day. Rather, they’d happily spend time with their children instead.
What are your thoughts on the matter?
The photo at the top shows the Four Mothers - a Roman carving at the Museum of London.
Links and previous related posts