Mary Kemp steps out of the kitchen this month to recall her memories of Mothering Sunday
Mary’s Mothering Sunday memories
It’s Mothering Sunday at the end of March and although no one is absolutely certain where or when the idea of Mothering Sunday began, it’s a day that has been celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent ever since the 16th century.
The ancient Greeks celebrated the festival of Cybele, a great mother of Greek gods, while the Romans also had a holiday, Matronalia, which was dedicated to Juno, on the same day and mothers were usually given gifts.
But this mid-Lent Sunday, as it was known, was also called Refreshment Sunday. Although Christians were encouraged to fast throughout Lent, this was a day when the fasting rules were relaxed and everyone made a point of visiting their nearest big church, the mother church or cathedral. Those who did this would say they had ‘gone a mothering’.
So significant was this day that those working in service or servitude were given the day off and, as everyone travelled to the largest church in an area, most families would be reunited at least once every year, making it a special day and family event. Simnel cakes would be made and enjoyed for this celebration day. And so it continued to the present day, although it’s a day when its significance changes as you grow older and as your role in life changes.
When we were children, Mothering Sunday didn’t seem as commercialised as it does now. Homemade cards always had pictures of daffodils, tulips or primroses. Having been taught to draw flowers at school in a slightly mechanical way, and with a bit of inspiration from Blue Peter, we’d make cards of primroses which would be circles of heart shapes all joined together, or daffodils made up of frilly-edged triangles all growing out of a random collection of leaves. My mother still has many of them tucked safely into her old cookery books.
Every year we were happily dispatched to pick primroses, aconites or snowdrops, depending on how early or late Mothering Sunday fell. There were certain ditches and woodlands on the farm we knew would be full of primroses and cowslips and the added bonus of water at the bottom of ditch meant we would gather the flowers and return home with baskets full and covered in mud!
Miss Gray, our teacher at Wreningham primary school, would, with a team of willing helpers from the village, miraculously turn these random collections of flowers into small posies for the Mothering Sunday service, when all the children in church would go to collect a small bunch of flowers from the vicar to give their mothers.
Many years on I still remember that feeling of delight as we sat clutching that small bunch of flowers, wrapped so expertly in wet tissue then covered in tinfoil so they didn’t leak. Often slightly battered by the time we returned home, our posies would still have pride of place in the kitchen.
As I write this, snow is forecast, but I hope spring is just around the corner. On Sunday, March 31, I look forward to catching up with mum, my children and my grandchildren, and maybe the odd posy of spring flowers will be in a jam jar on the windowsill just as it was in my childhood.
Find out more about Mary Kemp’s cookery theatres, demonstrations and more recipes at marykemp.net
ABOVE:Primroses, a spring favourite for Mother’s Day