The History of Mothering Sunday (Mother’s Day) and “going a-mothering!

Mothering Sunday Grandma with Grandchildren

Giving thanks to the incredible women in your life on a day of thanks and appreciation is just the best.

Mothering Sunday and Mother’s Day both have different origins; although they represent the same meaning, they originated very differently. We all celebrate the day, but very few people actually know its origin. The original meaning of Mothering Sunday and Mother’s Day has been somewhat lost but it’s still a day to solely appreciate mum.

Mother’s Day in the UK and Ireland, is a day to show love, gratitude and appreciation to all wonderful mums everywhere, through acts of kindness and the giving of Mother’s days gifts and flowers.


Mother’s Day celebrations date back as far as the ancient Greeks, where they would celebrate Rhea, the Mother of the Gods and Goddesses, every spring with festivals of worship. The Romans also celebrated a mother Goddess, Cybele, every March as far back as 250BC.

In the 16th century in England, Mothering Sunday began as a religious event, with no connection to mothers at all. The word “mothering” referred to the “mother church”, which is the main church of the region.

It then became a tradition that, on the fourth Sunday of Lent, people would return to their mother church for a special service. This was a pilgrimage and apparently known as “going a-mothering”.

It then became a holiday event and reunion for domestic servants who were, traditionally, given the day off. They then could visit their own families as well as their mother church and mothers.

But the road to the warm and fuzzy holiday we know today actually involved a lot of hard work, disagreement, and heartache.


Despite its long existence in British culture, Mothering Sunday eventually fell out of fashion at the dawn of the 20th Century. This is where a lady named Constance Penswick-Smith enters the picture. The daughter of a vicar, she thought the loss of this day was a great shame, and worked hard to rekindle interest, even writing a book whose title clearly laid out her ambition – it was called “The Revival of Mothering Sunday”. As if that wasn’t enough, she also founded the ‘Society for the Observance of Mothering Sunday’. Her determination paid off, and the fading festival was restored to the culture of the country, only with much more of a focus on celebrating motherhood. And this was due to an American influence…


So if our event is properly called Mothering Sunday in the UK, what is “Mother’s Day”?

Technically speaking it’s a completely unrelated American event, invented by a woman called Anna Jarvis in 1908. This is why I am and many women are confused of the different dates for Mother’s day UK and the US Mother’s day.

We also have to recognise the diversity of family relationships today and we include “carers” in the child’s life and our own mothers. Remembering that for some, their experience is of loss or mourn childlessness. it is a painful time.

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Jan Bastard About the Author

About the Author, Jan Bastard

BSc. (Hons) complementary therapy/aromatherapy, RN, RM, Anaesthetic Diploma, IAIM.

For over forty years, and over two continents, Jan has worked tirelessly to help mothers have a positive birthing experience. She is also a mother and grandmother.