Mother’s Day falls on Sunday 27 March and although, in modern times, it has become more of a commercial enterprise, largely driven from the USA, its roots lie in the distant past.
The exact origins, like many of our festivals, are lost in the mists of time but the ancient Greeks held celebrations in Spring to honour Rhea, mother of the gods. The Romans too had a festival for Mother Goddess Cybele, as early as 250 BC.
Perhaps the most realistic link dates to the 16th century when Christian services were held in honour of the Virgin Mary and it was permitted to break the Lenten fast with cake. Worshippers moved from the smaller ‘daughter’ churches to the ‘mother’ church for this special service.
Indeed, Mother’s Day in the UK always takes place on the fourth Sunday of Lent.
Another theory is that of Laetare Sunday, when people, including domestic servants, were granted a day’s holiday to return to their families. They were known to have gone ‘a-mothering’. Treats and gifts were taken home and this often included a Simnel Cake.
Simnel Cake is a light fruit cake with two layers of almond paste and covered in a layer of marzipan. It was traditionally decorated with 11 balls of marzipan to signify the disciples (minus Judas) and finished with sugar violets.
This year, we are delighted that we are able, once again, to welcome relatives to visit their mothers and other family members. We can’t promise that Simnel Cake will be on the menu but cake will definitely make an appearance alongside copious cups of tea and, probably, a few other treats too.