I'm all for giving mums the thumbs up on their own special day, but each year I find it increasingly difficult to track down a card that says 'Happy Mothering Sunday' rather than 'Happy Mother's Day' - the latter description of the event being of immense annoyance to my own Mummy Dearest. I had always presumed that her preference was simply an extension of a general attachment to all things traditional, which also applies to hymns, wedding vows and grammar. But having heard her sentiment echoed on Radio Four yesterday, I discovered that 'Mother's Day' is in fact an entirely separate festival created by the Americans, and nothing to do with the British equivalent. The practise of 'Mothering Sunday' actually began in the 16th century, not as a celebration of motherhood, but for people to return to their 'mother church' to be reunited with their families on the fourth Sunday of Lent. It later evolved into a day when domestic servants were given a day off to visit their mother and other family members, and eventually into a general celebration of motherhood in which children take their mums out for lunch and show their appreciation with chocolates, cards and flowers. American social activist Julia Ward Howe invented 'Mother's Day' in 1870 after the American Civil War, originally as a feminist protest against war, although it has now betrayed its socialist roots by becoming one of the most commercially successful occasions in the US.
So I have to hand it to my mother (pictured above, during her Mothering Sunday lunch yesterday at the Plough and Harrow in Litlington) for being not only admirably fastidious, but in this case (and most others, it has to be said), ultimately right. Her immense intelligence, grace and wit never cease to inspire me, and I hope that I manage to show my appreciation all year round, and not just on Mothering Sunday. Thanks Mum, you're the best.