Mothering Sunday

This coming Sunday, the 11th March, is Mother's Day (also known as Mothering Sunday) in the UK and Ireland.

There seem to be different definitions of when Mother's Day occurs around the world. In the UK and Ireland (and also Nigeria) it always happens on the Fourth Sunday of Lent – also known as Laetare Sunday.

Laetare Sunday (or Refreshment Sunday) is traditionally the one Sunday in Lent when you're meant to relax your Lenten austerity – and also your Lenten fast – so stock up on that chocolate and booze now! And in church it's one of the two Sundays in the year when the priests wear rose (or pink) coloured vestments.

The reason it's called Mothering Sunday seems to date back to a 16th-century tradition of Christians visiting their mother church annually on Laetare Sunday. Children would return to their home towns, and as such to their families, so there would be some focus on returning to their mothers.

However it wasn't until World War II that US soldiers brought the entirely secular celebration of mothers on Mother's Day to the UK – and as such the two traditions merged.

One of the traditions I'm personally very fond of is the making of simnal cake on Laetare Sunday, a light fruit cake with lots and lots of marzipan in it, and then decorated on top with 11 marzipan balls – to symbolise the 12 apostles (minus Judas).