18 Mar 2023

Making the most of Mother's Day

Our home-grown ‘Mother’s Day’ originated in the 17th century as a religious feast, called Mothering Sunday. It was a feast day held to celebrate the Virgin Mary and the idea was that people would return to their ‘mother church’, to make it a family celebration. It took place on the fourth Sunday of Lent and allowed for some easing of the Lenten fast – it was sometimes called ‘Simnel Sunday’ because it was traditional to bake simnel cake, a delicious concoction of dried fruits, spices and marzipan, which is also eaten at Easter. Inevitably, it became a family reunion, with mothers taking pride of place.

Like so many high days and holidays, Mother’s Day has become highly commercialised in recent years. Few of us can have failed to notice the banks of bouquets in supermarket entrances or the serried ranks of mass-produced cards. Like Christmas or Valentine’s Day, we are being sold a simple message about our obligations and encouraged to behave in socially homogenous way. But every mother is unique and there are myriad ways of celebrating this day that can be a more nuanced reflection of how you feel about this relationship.

Remember the main function of Mother’s Day is to acknowledge your mother’s role in your life and find a way of showing your appreciation. In these straitened times you do not need to squander large sums of money on expensive gifts – the emphasis should be on thought, planning, and taking trouble, rather than on extravagant ostentation.

Here are some suggestions:

• Most mothers will be delighted with a spring bouquet. Daffodils or narcissi are an inexpensive option – hand-wrap and tie them to make them look special. Lilies are a historical symbol of motherhood, or you can capitalise on the plenitude of beautiful tulips that are available at this time of year. Roses are a perennial favourite; opt for pink, yellow or white. Whatever your choice, buy flowers that are well-wrapped, preferably by a florist, and do not signal last-minute panic at the supermarket checkout or garage forecourt.

• If your mother loves to garden, why not buy her a special plant – a traditional English rose is always a good choice, and you might even be able to find one with a name that has some special meaning in your family lore.

• Create your own spring planter for your mother’s patio or window box. If you have children, they will enjoy helping. At this time of year inexpensive violas, hyacinths, primulas can be found in abundance, and once the display is past its best, they can all be planted out in the garden.

• For mothers who enjoy a drink, a bottle of champagne is always a good option. Alternatively, you could opt a special English sparkling wine.

• Give your mother an experience as a gift, and if possible, accompany her so it becomes a special excursion. The possibilities are legion: a wine-tasting and lunch in an English vineyard; an exclusive tour of a stately home or garden; a cooking class; an evening at the theatre or opera; a luxurious day at a hotel spa. Alternatively, you can suggest a simple outing that you know she will enjoy – a long country walk and pub lunch, a day at the seaside with fish and chips, a trip to an art gallery or exhibition.

• Take your mother out for a celebratory meal. You might want to eschew the crowded restaurants, with their ‘Special Menus’ on Mother’s Day – if you’re unlucky, it can feel too much like a celebration production line. But a date in the weeks ahead will be something she can look forward to.

• Encourage young children to contribute something special: they can hand-draw cards, create their own bouquets, or help to bake a cake. By giving them a role, you will be reinforcing the message that mothers play a fundamental role in family life, and showing your gratitude to them is of paramount importance.

• Make sure she enjoys a lazy indulgent day. Think about bringing her breakfast in bed or enlisting the help of the whole family to cook a delicious Sunday lunch (and wash up afterwards). Young children will enjoy helping.

While it is useful to have a ‘special day’ to remind you of everything you owe your mother, don’t make the mistake of guiltily piling on the treats, gifts and celebrations and then ignoring her for most of the year. Most mothers would be much more appreciative of regular contact and acknowledgment than an annual cornucopia.

If you are fortunate enough to have a close and bonded family, devoted children, a doting mother, then no doubt you will be looking forward to Mother’s Day and you are right to celebrate this good fortune. But spare a thought for the large numbers of people who dread the day and find it intensely depressing – they may be divorced, estranged or bereaved. Think about friends that are in this situation, take the trouble to ask them how they are going to spend the day, and enquire if you can help or participate in any way.

Think carefully before you post about your delightful Mother’s Day celebrations and try your best to avoid gloating and self-satisfaction. Remember, universal celebrations are delightful if you are happy and prospering, but they can also be painful and alienating reminders of everything you have lost.


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