Thursday, 3 April 2014

It's a different way, that doesn't make it wrong...

Unless you've been under a rock for the past few weeks, you will have realised that Sunday 30th March was "Mother's Day" or to give it it's traditional original UK name - "Mothering Sunday". Originally a religious celebration - it always falls on the fourth Sunday in lent, and its traditions have nothing to do with "Mums" and everything to do with people returning to their Mother Church on that day each year - domestic servants would be given a day off for the purpose, and this is where the link to family comes in as in a lot of cases this would be the one day in each year when the whole family could worship together. Young people who were in service would pick wildflowers on their way back home, which they would place in the church - as time moved on this evolved into the flowers being presented to their own mothers, and there you have the reason why it's now seen as a day to give gifts to your mother.
Mother's Day is something entirely different - and it won't surprise most of you in the least to known that this one started out as an American thing. Ironically enough, it's founder - Anna Jarvis - originally campaigned to have the day made a holiday, she was successful in this by 1914, but by 1920 had already become disillusioned with it's commercialism - I wonder what she'd think if she could see the way it is celebrated today?! For what it's worth - the original "Mother's Day" was the 2nd Sunday in May - no wonder people in the UK have become confused as to which event they're marking!

As a family we have never marked Mother's Day at all, and would never have marked Mothering Sunday as we're not religious. My Mum explained to me when I was very small that she would far rather than I did something nice for her randomly, as a surprise, during the year, than on one specific day in the year when I felt that I "ought to" - to me, that makes perfect sense too - and if I'd been in any doubt as to the logic of that, it would have been confirmed when I went into town on friday afternoon. Everywhere signs telling people "Not to forget" Mother's Day (surely if it was that important to them, they wouldn't be in danger of forgetting anyway?) but more notably, the clusters of people wearing worried, slightly put-upon expressions, and complaining that they "had to" get something for their Mums. How on earth is going out with that attitude showing ANY form of respect to the person who has brought you up, nurtured you, and made you into the person you are today. Hang on though, maybe that has something to do with the attitudes? Hmmm.

As a child, I remember sitting in class watching while everyone else was instructed to make their mum a Mother's Day card. I drew a picture instead I think - I was determined enough even then to take note of what my Mum said she wanted that I wasn't going to join in, in spite of being told that I was wrong not to! It was hard feeling that I was the odd one out, I must admit, but even then the number of people I remember complaining about it stood out to be as being entirely counter to the idea of the day as it was intended. Since then I've regularly encountered people being absolutely astonished when I'd had cause to explain that as a family, we don't celebrate the day. In fact, the first person I came across who simply accepted it was MrEH - and oddly enough he was also the first person I'd come across outside my own family whose family also didn't celebrate it!

Of course these days, the "hype" for want of a better word, around this day has become almost entirely commercial - pretty much anything out there can be wrapped up in a "Mother's Day" wrapper in order to sell more, and is. From Supermarkets persuading you to buy flowers & chocolates, to cosmetic companies suggesting that "All your Mum wants for Mothers Day..." is a pot of their miracle cream. It's come a long way from that lovingly and tenderly gathered bunch of wildflowers, hasn't it?

The people I feel that the whole thing must be hardest on are those who've lost their Mums, particularly children who have lost their Mum unexpectedly. How difficult must it be to be surrounded by posters and banners exhorting you to "buy this" or "Book a table for lunch" or "Treat your Mum to..." when all you can think on is that you no longer have a Mum to do those things for? It used to be that the toughest days were always birthdays, Christmas, perhaps another special day like your parents wedding anniversary - now though there is another day where even if you might want to, you're unable to escape from the harsh reality of the situation. Grieving is a very personal, and private thing, and yet a sort of "public day of mourning" is forced on people whether they feel able to cope, or not.

I'm not suggesting for one moment that those that wish to celebrate Mother's Day, Father's Day, Grandparents Day or whatever other family member's day the card companies will choose to focus on next should not be able to do so. How about, though, starting a drift back towards something a little more traditional, individual even - a little more focused on love, and respect, and appreciation, than on a big card and a gift. How about doing something on a day of YOUR choosing, rather than on the same day as everyone else? As for those of us who choose NOT to celebrate it - try to remember that this is our choice, and the choice of our Mums, and they have every much right to having their views respected as your Mum does.

As for the flower pics in this post - these are for MY Mum, nothing to do with Mother's Day, but just because you're you, and I appreciate you for that, 365 days of the year.


ps - Thanks to my Mum for the interesting web-link that set me off learning more about this subject!


Scarlet said...

I tell my girls not to bother about it, but I also tell them not to bother about my birthday or Christmas either. Sometimes they listen, sometimes they don't, and sometimes they just surprise me with something randomly. The last time K was here for the dentist she brought me some vintage curtains that she'd found in a charity shop, and when KL came home last week ( tonsillitis) she brought me some vegan Haribo type sweets that are sold in a shop near where she lives. Just random things, which meant so much more than the obligatory flowers/ chocolates on Mother's Day. I didn't get cards or presents this year, but I did get a text from K, and a half price bar of vegan chocolate from KL which she bought in the local Co-op when she popped in on Sunday evening. I spent most of Mother's Day at the allotment with J - burning rubbish and planting onions in the sunshine. It was bliss!

Robyn said...

That's really nice Scarlet - I love the "Sometimes they listen, sometimes they don't" particularly! Far nicer to get little random gifts like that, which have really been thought of, too!

Dc said...

I have never been able to celebrate Mother's Day but would have liked to! Our son phoned me on Saturday to wish me a nice day as they wouldn't be around the following day (he lives away). I was just as happy with that.

Robyn said...

Thanks for commenting Dc - it's really about what makes you happy isn't it - I'm glad your phone call did!

Anonymous said...

We don't celebrate it either. Well not in the way hallmark would like us to. We handmake cards and presents (if we feel like it) are also handmade. My mum would be mortified if she thought we had bought some overpriced bunch of flowers just because (like you said) shops tell us to.

On the note you made about returning to your mother church. Friends of ours from our local baptist church decided to sneak into their "mother church" in the town and leave a card for their congregation. So they went down on the Sunday evening after their service (pastor's wife as well) and snuck in the side door. Imagine their surprise when opening the door to find the whole church looking at them as they had moved their meeting to the back room due to renovation works happening in the sanctuary!!!

Apparently the congregation thought it was a lovely idea so no one minded the service being so rudely interrupted :)

Robyn said...

N that's SUCH a lovely story! What a lovely idea to sneak in and leave a card too.
Handmade cards and presents - again, that really requires some thought, and care, and love, going into the whole thing, rather than just spending money on it. Also of course means that those households where the children simply don't have the cash to splash don't get left out and excluded from it.