Skip to main content



Mother’s Day is coming and children of all ages are making cards, hunting out favourite recipes and booking restaurants. In the UK, Mothering Sunday is a floating religious festival determined by its proximity to Easter. It always falls on the fourth Sunday of Lent – which is this coming Sunday – and it’s traditionally the time when the dedication shown by mothers is celebrated with small gifts, cards, and the much larger present of time spent in her company.

Mother’s Day as we know it is based on the American festival, which always falls on the second Sunday in May. The US festival was founded by the unlikely combination of a devout Methodist girl and a legendary businessman: a Philadelphian merchant called John Wanamaker, later credited with the invention of modern advertising. The girl, Anna Jarvis, wished to commemorate the death of her mother Ann, who had spent much of her own life campaigning to get a festival of motherhood off the ground; the businessman saw an opportunity to make a name for his store.

The practice of giving cards is a direct result of Wanamaker’s involvement in the holiday; the tradition of sending flowers comes from the 500 white carnations (Ann Jarvis’ favourite bloom) that Anna Jarvis had delivered to her first official celebration in 1908. Six years later, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson made Anna Jarvis’ holiday a national institution – and the rest, as they say, is history.

Traditionally both UK and US children are encouraged to make gifts for their mothers. Making a present means spending time on it: and since the whole point of the festival is to recognise all the time and effort a mum puts in, day in and day out, for her offspring, doing the same with the present seems an appropriate way to recognise her dedication. Breakfast in bed and hand painted cards are popular; as are gifts that let mum spend a little quality time of her own: bath salts; scented candles; and wine or chocolates are always a good idea.

Older kids might cook a meal for their mother, or take her to a restaurant. Either way, the guiding rule is that the woman who cooked for you for years gets to sit back, relax, and have food brought to her for a change.

It’s a busy world, of course, and some of us have children of our own to think about. While they’re plotting to bring up breakfast in bed on the day, we’re at work: earning money, running the house. It can be hard to find the time to make a present when you have thirty other things to do before you go to bed.

A personalised card can raise a smile. And there are plenty of bespoke gifts out there to choose from too. Just remember, whatever the age and however you choose to do it: everyone has a mum, and they all deserve to feel a bit special this Sunday.