Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Day of National Celebration in Honor of Mothers

Happy Mother's Day to all you nurturers out there:)
Many people are under the misconception that Mother's Day was "invented" by Hallmark. Why wouldn't they be? Commercialism has taken hold on every holiday from New Year's to Christmas for countless years. I have in my hand a copy of a book titled Celebrations by Robert J. Myers AND, The Editors of Hallmark Cards. (1972)

Our observance of Mother's Day is little more than half a century old, yet the nature of the holiday makes it seem as if it had roots in prehistoric times. Many antiquarians, holiday enthusiasts, and students of folklore have claimed to find the source of Mother's Day in ancient spring festivals dedicated to the mother goddesses, particularly the worship of Cybele. Her cult was introduced into Rome some two hundred and fifty years before the birth of Christ and rites were performed for three days beginning with the Ides of March. This festival was known as Hilaria. However, the step from worship of the feminine principle of life to the honoring of our immediate mothers is not one that was taken in Roman times. The Hilaria was a religious holiday; Our Mother's Day basically is not.
From Mother's Day; its History, Origin, Celebration, Spirit, and Significance...(1915)
Our earliest record of formal mother-worship is in the stories of the ceremonies by which Cybele, or Rhea, "The Great Mother of the Gods," was worshipped in Asia Minor. In her worship it was the power and majesty of motherhood rather than its tender maternal spirit that the wild dances and wilder music celebrated. Cybele was represented as traversing the mountains in a chariot drawn by lions...The worship of this superlative "Mother of Gods" was introduced through Greece into Rome about two hundred and fifty years before Christ. There is was known as the festival of Hilaria and was held on the Ides of March...With the advent of Christianity, the old celebration was transfigured into a celebration in honor of the "Mother Church." It became the custom on Mid-Lent Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Lent, for the faithful to visit the church in which they were baptized and brought up bearing gifts for the altar.
Some of these first myths of "mother-worship" became closely aligned with Mothering Sunday in England; a day when children returned to their homes bringing with them small gifts or a "mothering" cake for their mothers. From Chamber's Book of Days:
The harshness and general painfulness of life in old times must have been much relieved by certain simple and affectionate customs which modern people have learned to dispense with. Amongst these was a practice of going to see parents, and especially the female one, on the mid Sunday of Lent, taking for them some little present, such as a cake or a trinket. A youth engaged in this amiable act of duty was said to go a-mothering, and thence the day itself came to be called Mothering Sunday.
There was also a cheering and peculiar festivity appropriate to the day, the prominent dish being furmety which we have to interpret as wheat grains boiled in sweet milk, sugared and spiced. In the northern part of England, and in Scotland, there seems to have been a greater leaning to steeped pease fried in butter, with salt and pepper. Pancakes so composed passed by the name of carlings; and so sonspicuous was this article, that from it Carling Sunday became a local name for the day.
Another popular delicacy held in high praise on Mothering Sunday was Simnel Cake. Simnel Cake is like a rich fruitcake with an outer crust made of flour and water. The crust is colored yellow with saffron and usually artfully ornamented. Etymologists refer the word simnel to the Latin word simila, meaning the finest flour. Others believe that the father of Lambert Simnel (Also known as: Edward, Earl of Warwick) who was a baker was the first to make these cakes naming them as such. If you would like to take a gander at a Simnel Cake recipe I posted on Mothering Sunday a while back, here's the link. (Not to worry, it isn't a long post:)

Mother's Day in the USA!

There wasn't much time to celebrate Mothering Sunday in those early years of America's English settlement. It wasn't until around 1872 when Julia Ward Howe, the author of the lyrics for the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," proposed an annual Mother's Day for Peace. Committed to abolishing war after seeing the devastating effects of the Civil War, Howe wrote:
"Our husbands shall not come to us reeking with carnage... Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs".
Although the formal designation of a specific day as Mother's Day was proclaimed on May 9, 1914, by President Woodrow Wilson, the first Mother's Day observation in the United States was a church service held at the request of Miss Anna Jarvis in Grafton, West Virginia, on May 10, 1908. It was not strictly a Mother's Day service in honor of motherhood but more of a tribute to Anna's mother.
...The following spring, Anna wrote to the Superintendent of Andrews Methodist Church Sunday School in Grafton, suggesting that the church in which her mother had taught classes for twenty years, celebrate a Mother's Day in her honor. The idea appealed to Mr. Loar and on May 10, 1908, the first official Mother's Day service was held in the church. Anna established the white carnation as the symbol of the celebration and developed other text and visual tools in honor of the event. It was Anna who coined the term, "Mother's Day Association", used during the period she was developing her concept of what Mother's Day should be. Subsequently, West Virginia Gov. William E. Glasscock issued the first Mother's Day proclamation on April 26, 1910. In 1912, at the General methodist Conference in Minneapolis, MN, Anna was recognized as the founder of Mother's Day. A joint resolution in the United States Congress designated the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day. The official resolution was approved by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914.
Once again from Celebrations and the Hallmark editors:
The carnations which have become such a familiar part of Mother's Day were introduced and supplied at the first church service held in Grafton, West Virginia by Miss Jarvis. They were chosen because of her mother's fondness for them. The flowers were immediately accepted as appropriate for the occasion. Red carnations in time became the symbol of a living mother, while white ones were worn as a sign that one's mother had passed.

They say that man is mighty,
He governs land and sea,
He wields a mighty scepter
O'er lesser powers than he;
But mightier power and stronger
Man from his throne has hurled,
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.
W.R. Wallace

It's rather ironic that the woman behind the establishment of Mother's Day was never herself a mother. Unmarried for her entire life, Anna Jarvis devoted her life to taking care of her mother and her blind sister after her mother had passed. She became quite disillusioned with the way the holiday flourished into a day of commercialism.
It didn't take very long for Mother's Day to change from a semi-religious occasion of prayers for peace and appreciation of the work and love of mothers around the world to a gifts, flowers, candy and dining out extravaganza. Anna Jarvis was actually arrested at a Mother’s Day festival while trying to stop women from selling flowers. Jarvis said "I wanted it to be a day of sentiment not profit." (Mother's Day History)

Old Mothers by Charles S. Ross
I love old mothers--mothers with white hair,
And kindly eyes, and lips grown softly sweet,
With murmured blessings over sleeping babes,
There is something in their quiet grace
That speaks the calm of Sabbath afternoons'
A knowledge in their deep, unfaltering eyes,
That far outreaches all philosophy.
Time with caressing touch, about them weaves
The silvered-threaded fairy-shawl of age,
While all the echos of forgotten songs,
Seemed joined to lend a sweetness to their speech.
Old Mothers!--as they pass with slow-timed step,
Their trembling hands cling gently to youth's strength
Sweet mothers! as they pass, one sees again,
Old garden walks, old roses and old loves.

Mother's Day @ Our House

So what did Marion request for Mother's Day? Not much I'm afraid. We're having a pretty quiet day around here for Mother's Day. I persuaded Marion to at least select a special cake that we could share for Mother's Day and wouldn't you know it, she chose this Special Rhubarb Cake with a rich vanilla sauce that she found in the Taste of Home 2002 Annual Recipes cookbook. (readers may remember I'm not too fond of rhubarb:) None the less, I will be baking this cake later on today:)

Special Rhubarb Cake
2 tbs. butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups chopped fresh rhubarb (frozen may be used)
Streusel Topping:
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar (I'll probably use vanilla sugar:)
2 tbs. butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla
Vanilla Sauce:
In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, add to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk, beating just until moistened. Fold in the rhubarb. Pour into greased 9 inch square baking dish. Combine topping ingredients; sprinkle over batter. Bake at 350° for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on wire rack. For Sauce, melt butter in a saucepan. Add sugar and milk. Bring to boil, cook and stir for 2-3 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Serve with cake.

Have a wonderful day everyone. Now that things are pretty much back to normal around here, I should be back to my regular postings and visitings this week. It's been one heck of a week!!! BTW, Tomorrow is National Butterscotch Brownie Day!!!


  1. Happy Mother's Day, Louise :)

    Btw, I don't think I've ever tried rhubarb. Wonder how it taste and why you are not too fond of it ;)

  2. Simply, admirable what you have done here. It is pleasing to look you express from the heart and your clarity on this significant content can be easily looked. Remarkable post and will look forward to your future update.

  3. Lovely Mother's Day post. I love rhubarb, and I'll definitely make this rhubarb cake. Carnations are my mother's favorite, and I'll stop by the market and pick some up for her today. Thanks for the reminder.

    Happy Mother's Day!

  4. Oh my goodness! Beautiful post! Happy Mother's Day! You deserve the best day Louise!

  5. Dear Louise,
    A lovely Post on mothers day and an awesome cake. WE all enjoyed it virtually and still longed to have some more. have a great day, cheers, sonia !

  6. You're a good friend. The cake looks lovely.

    Happy Mothers Day to you!

  7. Happy Mother's Day!! The cake looks delicious. I love rhubarb.

  8. that cake looks great! happy mother's day!

  9. happy Mom s' day dear Louise, hope you had a lovely day, I love this crumble! huggs, gloria
    (Mom enjoyed eclairs was so happy)

  10. Sorry Louise I said Crumble and I wanna say Cake, and think the rhubarb colour is amazing, I love it, xxgloria

  11. You mess up my schedule, Louise. Each time, I visit, I am entranced with the info, you are sharing and then the recipes that sound delicious. Before, I know it, my cake is burning or I am late for work. It is well worth it, though.

  12. I hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day. That rhubarb cake looks so good. A perfect treat for such an occasion.



  13. Interesting background on Mother's Day Louise! The rhubarb cake looks incredibly delicious! I wonder where it's been all my life - I need to do some baking with it. Hope you had a great Mother's Day!

  14. Nice poetry.I have always been amused by the Rita Mae Brown revision of the famous line; her book title was "The Hand that Cradles the Rock."

  15. Being a lover of rhubarb, I copied your cake recipe, Louise. :)

    I love reading your blog as I always learn so much. I had not a clue about carnation colors and what they meant nor have I ever read the entire Wallace quote.
    Hope you had a happy...even if you don't like rhubarb.

  16. Another interesting read for Mother's Day; I learned so much. Very anxious to see rhubarb appearing; that cake looks amazing; can almost tate it.

  17. I read that while Anna decried the commercialism of Mother's Day, she was unaware that in her old age, Hallmark paid for her upkeep wherever she was. Not bad, for a company she despised, right?

    Nice looking cake. Marion made a good choice! Happy Belated Mother's Day, Louise!

  18. what a glorious cake! this newly-converted rhubarb-lover is enamored of it, to be sure!
    and wow--i had no idea that the gal responsible for mother's day had no kids of her own. it kinda makes her even more special!

  19. So interesting to learn about other celebrations honoring Moms, Louise. I like the recipe for Simnel Cake - and find it interesting that so many celebratory cakes of a certain era had candied fruit in them.

    How did the rhubarb cake come out?

  20. Louise, Happy Belated Mother's Day :-) The cake looks so good, moist and so pretty with the streusel topping. Nice picture! Hope you are having a great week!

  21. Happy belated Mother's Day! I found the history of Mother's Day interesting, especially that there were religious ceremonies going so far back. I read about Julia Ward Lowe and Miss Jarvis before, but had forgotten until I read this. Thanks for the reminder! Hope you had a wonderful day and hope you enjoyed your cake. It sounds wonderful, especially with the vanilla sauce - vanilla is always a favorite of mine.

  22. This cake looks so good, and then I noticed it has rhubarb. I think I must have been frightened by this as a child (it reminded me of sweet, stringy, celery), and consequently I've not had it since (we're talking DECADES here). My husband does like it, so I guess I owe it to us both to try it again. Lovely post, I enjoyed it.

  23. That was nice of you to bake the cake even though you don't like rhubarb!

  24. hope you had a great mother's day and enjoyed a slice of the cake - love reading a bit of history to take it away from hallmark's commercialism

  25. Thank you everyone for all your sweet words:) I had a wonderful Mother's Day:)

    Selba: I'm not quite sure why I have an aversion to rhubarb but I sure know many people who LOVE it!!! You should give it a try. They call it "the pie plant" because it makes a GREAT pie:)

    Deva: Thanks for visiting. You have a most informative and tasty blog. Unfortunately, for some reason, I haven't been able to leave a comment.

    Comfy: I know I shouldn't be smiling but I must confess I am:) So sorry to ruin your cake...

    Marjie: Not bad at all. I didn't know about her relationship with Hallmark. Quite intriguing...

    T.W: Marion approved of the Rhubarb Cake. Me? Not so much. Too bad because, Katie has tons rhubarb she loved to give us!!!

  26. Happy Mother's Day, I wish for my dear mother and mother in the whole world. I'll try to make a cake recipe that you wrote in this web. thank you, this has given great inspiration to me.


Through this wide opened gate,
none came too early,
none returned too late.

Thanks for dropping in...Louise