Dates for assembly

5th March 2004 at 00:00
March 21: Mothering Sunday. This 400-year-old observance occurs on the middle Sunday of the Christian season of Lent, and is traditionally a time of fasting.

Outline script for assembly leader

The card shops are full of Mother's Day cards. Advertisements in the supermarkets encourage us to buy boxes of chocolates and bunches of flowers to give as presents on Mother's Day. But Mother's Day isn't for another two months (it occurs this year on May 9).

It began in 1907, when an American woman named Anna Jarvis, who lived in Philadelphia, decided one day each year should be set aside for people to honour their mothers. Her idea became popular and, in 1914, the American government made it official. Since then the second Sunday in May has been called Mother's Day. It is also observed that day in Canada and Australia.

Some people wear a red carnation as a sign of thanks for a mother who is alive, and a white carnation in memory of one who has died.

Despite what the cards may say, this coming Sunday isn't Mother's Day, but Mothering Sunday. No one is certain how Mothering Sunday began, but we know that on this day people who lived in villages used to go to the nearest cathedral - to their "mother church". So Mothering Sunday became a day on which Christians give thanks for "Mother Church".

For a long time, it has also been a day for giving thanks for all the things our mothers do for us. Years ago, girls as young as ten years old "went into service". That meant that they left home to work as maids in the homes of wealthy families. Boys also had to leave home to find work or to learn a trade.

Halfway through Lent, servants and apprentices were given time off to visit their mothers. Some girls were given a special cake, called Simnel cake (see picture), to take to their mothers, while boys used to gather bunches of wild flowers on their way home to give as presents. This break in the Lenten fast was also known as Refreshment Sunday.

Follow-up

Students could make "mothering" cards to give whoever cares for them - perhaps including "sorry for taking you for granted" messages - or devise collages that express their gratitude.

For more information, including a recipe for Simnel Cake, visit www.bbc.co.ukreligionreligionschristianityfeaturesmdayindex.shtml

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