The History Of Mother’s Day And Mothering Sunday

Happy mother's day written on notecard, surrounded by flowers, string, a pen and macarons


When you celebrate Mother’s Day do you often find yourself frantically trying to figure out which Sunday it will be each year..?

Do you buy gifts and treat all the mothers in your life; whether it's your mum, your step-mum, mother in law, your wife, or even a Grandmother to a fabulous time?

But you find yourself asking, why do we celebrate it?

Where did the idea of 'Mother’s Day' come from?

Why do we have a Mothering Sunday each year?

Why does the date move so much in the UK?

What does the history of Mother’s Day tell us about the celebrations we have today?

At, we've been doing our Mother's Day research so you don't have to.

Let’s find out more…



How did Mother’s Day start?

And, what is International Mother’s Day?

The tradition of Mother’s Day is referenced right back to the Middle Ages, in the UK and Ireland.

Originally, it was not about mums at all, and instead was about the custom of allowing people who had moved away from their family home to go back and visit the church of where they grew up - their ‘mother’s church’.

In the US, Mother’s Day has a more formal starting date. Mother's Day in the US was started almost by accident, by a woman called Anna Jarvis, who held a small memorial service for her own mother on 12th May 1907.

The idea caught on and, in 1914, the US president made it a national holiday, celebrated on the second Sunday of May.

Interestingly, it is reported in a BBC article that Anna Jarvis eventually regretted creating this version of Mother's Day!



What’s the difference between Mother’s Day and Mothering Sunday?

What do both terms mean?

Both terms – Mother’s Day and Mothering Sunday – represent the same the day.

The term ‘Mothering Sunday’ is the more traditional name from the 16th Century. The festival was an opportunity not only to visit home, but to take a small break from fasting, traditional during the time of Lent. It was a time enjoy a family meal.

‘Refreshment Sunday’, as it was also known, traditionally included a delicious full Sunday roast and mother would be named ‘Queen of the Feast’, where she would be served first and showered with small gifts, just like the Mother’s Day of many in the UK today.



When is Mother’s Day Celebrated?

And, why is Mother’s Day a different date each year?

The date of Mother’s Day changes each year because it falls on a particular Sunday, rather than a specific date which is significant, such a Valentine's Day, which is always the 14th February.

In the UK, Ireland and some other commonwealth countries, the date of Mother’s Day is dictated each year by being on the fourth Sunday in Lent - a period of 40 days which leads up to Easter. Because the date of Easter moves each year, so does the date of Mother's Day.

Mother’s Day in the UK is on Sunday 19th March in 2023. However, in 2025, it’ll be as late as the 30th March, then in 2027, it’ll be as early as Sunday 7th March.

Many other countries, including the US and Australia, celebrate Mother's Day on a more consistent date. International Mother’s Day, as it is known, is celebrated on the second Sunday in May, regardless of when Easter falls. International Mother’s Day falls on Sunday 14th May, in 2023.



What are the traditions of Mother’s Day?

What can we do to make mum’s day special?

'Simnel Sunday' was another name given to Mother’s Day and Mothering Sunday, in the past. It refers to the tradition of coming together, to break the fast of Lent, and to bake and eat Simnel cake. This is a cake now more associated with Easter in modern times – with the traditional 11 balls of marzipan representing Jesus’ trusted disciples.

Mother’s Day traditions have often included food - a delicious full Sunday roast has long been common – to share together as a family.

Another food-based tradition was for the children to wake early and prepare a loaf, so that mums would wake to the smell of freshly baked bread... It’s time to put those lockdown bread-making skills back into action.

Today, in most countries, Mother's Day is a celebration of the role of the mother and the people who epitomise the role of caregiver.

More similar to the American origins and Anna Jarvis’ original tribute (see above), it is traditional for children to give their mums, step-mums, grandmas, nans and other female relatives (and even female friends) a card and gift.

It’s now a day for others – her children and her partner – to take on the stereotypical "motherly tasks" - this may incude cooking to cleaning. Importantly, it's a day to show mum just how much she means to her family.


Did you know…? Mother's Day is the third most popular holiday to buy greeting cards for, falling only behind Christmas and Valentine's Day.




Prosecco and Dried Flower Bouquet Mother's Day Gift Image

Make Mother's Day Extra Special This Year

We hope you've learnt a thing or two about Mothering Sunday and the history of Mother's Day.

It's nice to be part of a long-standing tradition and to truly celebrate mums and their role in our families.

Take a look at our Mother's Day Around The World blog for even more inspiring suggestions about activities you could do together this Mother's Day.

If you are still looking for a perfect little Mother's Day gift, then do check out our range of hampers and gift boxes. We hope you'll find something you know she'll love.

Shop the Mother's Day hamper range

This blog was posted 9 months ago