Mothering Sunday

Mothering Sunday is a day for honoring mothers in European countries. It is held on the fourth Sunday of the season of Lent. The season of Lent corresponds to Easter, and as Easter is a floating holiday with no set date, Mothering Sunday is also a floating holiday and does not have a set date. This holiday should not be confused with Mother’s Day.


The celebration of Mothering Sunday began centuries ago. During that time, life was very different from today. Because many families were poor and could not care for everyone in the household, younger children were sent away to live with wealthier families. There, these younger children became “domestic servants” and would be assigned one or more household chores, including washing clothes, lighting morning fires, cleaning, scrubbing floors, washing dishes, and any other chores assigned by the wealthy family members.

One day a year was set aside to allow these domestic servants to return home to visit their mother, their family members, and their church. This day was called Mothering Sunday. As these children walked home for their visits, they would stop and pick wildflowers, which they would give as gifts to their mothers.

As the world continued to grow, fewer children were taken from their homes. By the early 1900s, the day of Mothering Sunday had all but faded from observance in Europe.

The Reinstatement of Mothering Sunday

Constance Penswick-Smith was born in Dagnall, Buckinghamshire, in the year 1878. Her father, Charles Penswick-Smith, was a vicar; her mother was Mary Caroline (née Baylis). Constance was the third daughter of Charles and Mary. She was of great character and worked as a governess during her younger years. Around the same time in the United States, a woman named Anna Jarvis was focusing on creating a day in which all mothers across the United States would be honored.

After reading Anna’s story, Constance Penswick-Smith began a movement in England to reinstate the honoring of mothers throughout the English communities. The movement became her lifetime obsession. As she explained in her booklet “The Revival of Mothering Sunday,” first published in 1920, the real meaning of ‘a day in praise of mothers’ was fully expressed in the liturgy of the Church of England for the fourth Sunday of Lent when honor was given to the mother church, mother churches (where baptism had taken place), and to earthly mothers.

Constance worked diligently throughout her years to reinstate Mothering Sunday as it was once celebrated. She wrote several books, including “A Short History of Mothering Sunday,” “More about Mothering Sunday,” and “The Revival of Mothering Sunday: Being an Account of the Origin, Development, and Significance of the Beautiful Customs which have Entwined Themselves Around the Fourth Sunday in Lent, the True and Ancient Day in Praise of Mothers.” Constance did not want Mothering Sunday to be related to only one religion. Her vision was to have Mothering Sunday celebrated by all people. To accomplish this, she enlisted the aid of many local groups, including the Girl Scouts, the Boy Scouts, unions, and even Queen Mary in March of 1919.

Constance passed away in 1938. By this time, Mothering Sunday was being celebrated throughout England and its communities. Constance Penswick-Smith had successfully integrated a special day to honor the mother church, the mother churches, and the earthly mothers.

Mothering Sunday Tradition

One tradition associated with Mothering Sunday is the Simnel cake. A Simnel cake is a lighter version of a fruit cake and contains almond paste, cake batter, a variety of fruits, and peels. On top of the cake, there are 11 round balls made from the almond paste, which represent 11 of the apostles (Judas is not counted).

Where is it celebrated?
United Kingdom (Observance)
When is it?
This year (2024)
March 10 Sunday
Next year (2025)
March 30 Sunday
Last year (2023)
March 19 Sunday