Sunday, 22 March 2009

MUM'S THE WORD

It's Mother's Day, or as my Mum and David's Mum always insisted on calling it...

MOTHERING SUNDAY

Unlike Father's Day, Mothering Sunday is a very old custom preceding - by many centuries - the current annual bonanza for choc-makers and florists.

In fact, a religious event celebrating motherhood has existed in Europe since around 250 BCE, when the Romans had a mid-March festival in honour of Cybele (right), the Magna Mater, or mother of the gods.

As the Roman Empire and Europe converted to Christianity, Mothering Sunday celebrations became part of the church's calendar with the fourth Sunday in Lent being set aside to the honouring of the Virgin Mary and 'mother church'. On this day, during the sixteenth century, people used to attend a service in the church where they were baptized and folks who did this were commonly said to have gone 'a-mothering'.

Other names given to this festival include Refreshment Sunday (because, being half way through the 40 days of Lent, the fast was relaxed for a day) and Simnel Sunday, from the custom of baking Simnel cakes.

Simnel cake (the name probably comes from simila, the Latin word for fine, wheaten flour) is a fruit cake, not unlike a Christmas cake, covered in marzipan and, sometimes, with another layer of marzipan or almond paste baked into the middle of the cake. Yummy!

Around the top of the cake are eleven marzipan balls representing the true disciples of Jesus (Judas being excluded) and, in some cases, with single, larger, ball of marzipan placed in the centre of the cake to represent Christ. Today, they will probably also feature a few fluffy chicks and be dotted with mini-chocolate eggs, but there are all kinds of variations on the Simnel cake tradition.

In the 18th and 19th Centuries, Mothering Sunday was the one day in the year when domestic servants were given a day off in order to visit their mothers and families, often taking with them a home-made Simnel cake, baked in their employers' kitchens.

If Valentine's Day is one of the least popular dates in the calendar for the unattached, then, I guess, Mother's Day is the equivalent for the motherless son or daughter.

It's almost ten years since the death of my Mum, Doris.

She was great worrier, my mother - a trait she passed on to me in spades (thanks, Mum!) - so there are some things that I'm glad she didn't survive long enough to worry about, such as seeing me walking with a stick and affected by a similar arthritic disease to the one that so painfully crippled the last years of her life.

But there are many other things that I really wish she had lived to see - like David and I getting legally hitched, because she and my Dad (along with David's parents) not only accepted, but lovingly embraced, our relationship.

And I'm so thankful that she saw me achieve some of my best work and justify the support and encouragement that she and my Dad gave me when I embarked on the career of a freelance.

But -- and, oh, it is such a big 'but' -- even after so many years, I still miss my mother (irritating and frustrating through she could sometimes be - unlike me, of course!), and I'd give anything to be able to pick up the phone to her today and have a chat...

Fortunately, in the years since first I, and then David, were 'orphaned', we've been lucky enough to have a couple of Honorary Mums which is the next best thing.

Today, for instance, our good friend Sophie will be sharing her Mum, Wendy, with us and if I tell you that Wendy makes one of the meanest trifles in Christendom, then you'll see why anyone would be happy to have her as a surrogate mum!


For all Mums everywhere (and to the memory of Mums who are no longer with us) here's is Anita Renfroe's hilarious 'Momsense' song...



11 comments:

Suzanne said...

Your blog today reminds me how confused I suppose I should be feeling! You say you have a surrogate mum; I am a couple of years younger than you and I have been decreed surrogate mum by another member of our am drams group! Not only that, but in my family the roles are reversed: it's my daughters who are also asking me where am I going, who with, who is he, what does he do etc... Role reversal? Role reshuffling I think!
decalest: a particularly decadent boozy kind of trifle

Brian Sibley said...

Remember what you did as a teenager: go silent and let them stew in their curiosity! :-)

LisaH said...

On behalf of us Mums, many thanks for the Blog - which I'm sure will also be of comfort for those who have lost their mothers and like you, take the opportunity to lovigly remember them today.
My daughter, Suzanne, gave me two DVDs - Perfume and Atonement. She also gave me a lovely little (well, he's just a shade smaller than Buttons) elephant wearing a very smart duffel coat. He's called Eliott, and his best friend is a mouse called... Buttons (I expect he/she is named after your Buttons).
Enjoy your time with Wendy and her trifle.

Boll Weavil said...

My mum has already rung to check where her card is (I left it in the house,hidden, on my last visit). She said I was such a good son, she knew I wouldn't have forgotten. As time goes by, it is the child that grows and the mother that reverts to little (and rather obvious) tricks to get their own way.Something of a role reversal !
COGUATIO : A cake crammed full of traditions from roughly this time of year, eaten with relish despite its historical inaccuracies !

Brian Sibley said...

LISAH - You'd better check out button's blog; maybe your Elephant and Mouse are related to a Hippo of the same name...

BOLL - Just we learn from our mothers, maybe mothers learn from their sons and daughters!!

Eudora said...

In Spain we celebrate this day in the first sunday of may (may is the month of Virgin Mary).

Well, happy sunday of good memories and remembrance, but be careful with that splendid cake...

Brian Sibley said...

Unfortunately, EUDORA, marzipan (which I adore) isn't on my diet sheet! :-(

Eudora said...

Don't worry Brian, I support you with that diet, I have another diet sheet, and in my sheet there is no marzipan, no cakes, no coffe, no cookies, no biscuits, no chips, no everything that I adore too, (and I can do sweet things very, very well...) don't worry, we will be able to overcomee it...;)

polkadotsoph said...

Wendy i svery proud to be making her first appearance on a l
blog on this great day. It is also good for the blogosphere to have a permanent record of Wendy's trifle.

Jen said...

I found The Mom Song deeply scary!
Get some counselling mom.
Mother's Day can be very poignant, the florists getting in touch because they haven't heard from you 'in a while'.There is a very good reason why...Once upon a time a mum went on a cruise & announced an engagement after 2 weeks holiday& it was just like Suzanne said.A teenager in reverse Well, who is he, HOW LONG have you known him???!! OVEXEME:Over emphasising the point.

Brian Sibley said...

EUDORA - Thanks for the support!

POLKADOTS - Trying to make sense of your comment... If I didn't know that you don't like the stuff, I'd have been inclined to think you'd been at your Mum's sherry trifle... ;-)

JEN - Well they say "Mother knows best..." but that's obviously not the case...