27 Feb 2017
The legendary marital argument on Mothering Sunday
There is a Shropshire legend that a couple called Simon and Nelly wanted to make a cake to celebrate the coming of Easter with their children. As it was during Lent the cupboards were bare but they had some leftover Lenten dough and the final remains of the Christmas pudding. With a spirit of adventure, they wrapped the pudding in the dough to create a new cake entirely. Then the argument started. Simon was adamant that being a pudding, it should be boiled. Nelly, seeing that it was essentially made from dough, argued for it to be baked. As painful as it is to hear for modern ears, the argument became ever more heated, until Nelly threw her baking stool at her husband, while Simon repeatedly whacked his wife with the broom. Seeing her husband’s stubbornness, Nelly saw a compromise- she would boil the cake first and then bake it. Simon let down the broom, picked the broken splinters of the stool out of his cheek and agreed to this plan.
Simon, deciding that hiding the evidence from his children was preferable to the subsequent denials and lies, made the fire out of the broken broom and splintered stool, while Nelly used the smashed eggs to coat the outside of the cake. All the collateral damage had been put to good use. The finished cake was so good that the children begged their parents to make it an annual tradition. Simon and Nelly decided that they could drop the blazing row from the tradition, but gave their names to Simnel cake.
And so, to this day, on the middle Sunday of Lent, children give a Simnel cake to their parents. We now call that Sunday Mothering Sunday.
Alternatively it could be that the origins of Mothering Sunday lie in the ancient tradition of domestic servants and apprentices being given one Sunday off a year to return to their Mother Church, the local church nearest to their parents' home. As these grown-up children walked the lanes, they would pick the wild flowers to give to their mothers as a small gift. And so to this day, children up and down the land are busy creating small, poorly constructed gifts in their Primary Schools for their dewy eyed mothers, while mono-syllabic teenagers are sent to the florists by their fathers to buy “something nice” for their long suffering mums.
Of course, there is a less cynical approach, which is to welcome Mothering Sunday as an opportunity to show wild, unbounded gratitude for the way that our mothers selflessly serve, care for and shape us into the people we are today.
We hope that our Mothering Sunday resources enable your Church to thank mothers, and to point to our Heavenly Father, who being without human gender, is also described in the Bible as the ideal mother.
Finally, just a brief health warning: In your words, prayers and daffodil giving, do remember that as with any festival, there are casualties. Mothering Sunday can be a painful reminder to some of their childlessness, their grief over a lost child, their uncaring mothers or of their mourning for a much loved lost mother. In our church we have chosen to ensure that no woman leaves the church on Mothering Sunday without a flower. Children need a choreographed rehearsal of how to present flowers. Most boys go for the “thrust and run” approach to flower giving. Perhaps, you could help them to see that a better way is to gently offer the flowers, to make eye contact and say something like, “Thank you for caring for others in our church, like a mother”
Happy Mothering Sunday!