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!!!