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Get ready for Mother’s Day (Sunday, May 12) with 10 fun ideas to treat Mom, including some delicious recipes. Also, learn about this ancient celebration, once called “Mothering Sunday,” and celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent with a Simnel Cake!
When Is Mother’s Day?
In the United States, Mother’s Day is celebrated annually on the second Sunday in May; therefore, the date changes yearly. Although Mother’s Day is a national holiday widely observed in the U.S., it is not a federal or public holiday (when businesses are closed).
Mother’s Day Dates
Sunday, May 12
Sunday, May 11
Sunday, May 10
Sunday, May 9
The History of Mother’s Day
A day to honor mothers has existed for as long as, well, there have been mothers. Festivals honoring mothers in ancient times were often tied to gods and goddesses and maternal symbols of fertility, birth, creativity, and growth cycles. The mother is the protector and nourisher of children and, by extension, of all humanity. The Phrygians held a festival for Cybele, the Great Mother of the Gods. The Greeks and Romans also honored the mother figure of their gods. Even today, an important festival in India, Durga-puja, honors the goddess Durga.
And long before Americans celebrated Mother’s Day, Europeans honored their mothers on the fourth Sunday of Lent on Mothering (or Simnel) Sunday. During the Middle Ages, laborers, apprentices, and servants—mainly daughters who had gone to work as domestic servants—would be given a holiday on the fourth Sunday of Lent to return to their mothers and the “mother” church.
Family reunions were the order of the day, with sons and daughters assuming all household duties and preparing a special dinner in honor of their mother. Sometime during the day, the mother would attend special church services with her family. The Lenten fasting rules were relaxed for that day. (Often, the gospel for the day was about Jesus feeding the crowd with loaves of bread.
The Simnel Cake
In 16th-century England, the eldest son or daughter would bring a “Mothering Cake” or “Simnel Cake,” which would be cut and shared by the entire family. The Simnel Cake is a dried fruit cake with two layers of almond paste. The cake was made with 11 balls of marzipan icing on top, representing the 11 disciples. (Judas is not included.) Traditionally, sugar violets would also be added. See a traditional recipe for Simnel Cake here.
Who “Invented” the Modern Mother’s Day?
In the United States, three women were most instrumental in establishing the tradition of Mother’s Day: Ann Reeves Jarvis, Julia Ward Howe, and Ann’s daughter, Anna M. Jarvis. What might surprise you is that the great women being honored as mothers were activists who fought for children’s welfare, health, and peace.
Breakfast in bed is always a classic and appreciated! Something simple is fine for this, such as toast or a croissant with jam or fruit and a cup of coffee or tea. Or, serve her a proper brunch with one of these 15 delicious brunch ideas including Champagne Mimosas.
4.Give your mom a call or put on a virtual talent show!
Just give your mom a ring or “Zoom” and make her laugh. Perhaps prepare some good “mom jokes.”
Put on a talent show! It can be simple. Sing a song, show off some gymnastics, or play an instrument.
5. Watch a movie or show together, side by side.
If you’re all at home in one place, have a movie night, complete with theater treats.
If you’re in separate locations, watch the same movie on your computers at the same time. Or, start a marathon of your favorite TV series.
6. Get creative: Make mom a video, a music playlist, or a piece of art!
Record a video from all of the children. They can each say “Happy Mother’s Day” and explain why they appreciate her. You can always use iMovie to splice videos together on your phone.
Make a tape or a music playlist. You could gather calming songs for bedtime, such as the sound of the sea. Or, you could gather her very favorite songs from the era that she loves most. (If your mom has an iPhone, create a special iTunes playlist that will get emailed to her.)
How about a special work of art for mom? For example, paint the outside of a terra-cotta flower pot and fill it with garden seeds and a card. Or, make a beautiful photo frame with your family photo inside. You can find many ideas on Pinterest and elsewhere on the Web.
7. Get outside! Go for a stroll in the park, or how about packing mom a picnic?
Fresh air always lifts the spirit. Spring is a wonderful time to visit a park and look for all those lovely spring flowers.
How about packing a simple picnic? If mom’s living nearby, drop off a picnic basket on her porch! If you’re living together, pack a cooler for a beautiful drive through the countryside. Here are great picnic food ideas.
8. Make a homemade gift!
You don’t need to go out to a store and buy a gift. Mothers love gifts from the heart.
Here are some fun craft projects—including gifts from the kitchen as well as DIY beauty products for a home spa basket!
Don’t forget to send a card in advance! In our home, it’s a tradition to make a homemade card every year. Moms love homemade! Here’s one way to make Homemade Note Cards.
Memories of Mom
Here at the Almanac, we asked around the office to share some of the happiest or funniest memories of their own mothers. We welcome your happy memories and stories, too! (Please share in the comments below.)
My Mom sang a lot around the house and I thought she made up all of the songs. When I got older, I started to hear those same songs on the radio and was like “Hey, … !” –Sarah P., Almanac editor
My Mom is a big gardener. One year, we grew sunflowers that were almost 8 feet tall! They were amazing—especially to me, a young kid. She’s the one who got me interested in plants! –Chris B., Almanac editor
When I was a teenager, my mother went back to college to get her Master of Library Science—studies that required her to learn how to program computers. This put me in the unique position of being able to help my mother with her homework. –Peter R., Almanac programmer
When I was young and all of my older siblings were in school, my Mom and I would have breakfast by the kitchen window and watch the hummingbirds. We loved watching the hummingbirds! –Colleen Q., Almanac art director
We went to Ocean City, Maryland, every summer for a week on the beach. My Mom went out on the beach every sunny day and sat there, under a big umbrella. She never got a tan (she had very fair skin and burned easily). No one can remember her ever going into the water. Not once. –Tim C., Almanac editor
Some of my happiest memories are singing songs with Mom as she played the piano. She also encouraged me to play. Even though it was a struggle at times, I am glad to have had lessons, not only because I discovered how to play an instrument but also because I learned how to read music and how the notes worked together to make a melody. –Heidi S., Almanac editor
My Mom and I have what we’ve always kind of called “our psychic connection” because it always seems like she will call me when I’ve been thinking of her a lot that day, or I’ll call her and she’ll say she’d been thinking of me. It seems like my daughter and I also have the “psychic connection”! —Stacey K., Almanac staff
Before I started school, Mom took me to the library every week to take out five books and return the five books from the prior week. We’d read together almost every day. –Colleen Q., Almanac art director
Together, let’s honor the women who raised us—making sacrifices for us every day and nurturing our families and greater communities.
Of course, if you are a mother, all of us at The Old Farmer’s Almanac wish YOU a very Happy Mother’s Day!