Celebrating Mother’s Day is admitting defeat
On 4 July, 1776, the Thirteen American colonies declared independence from Britain. Americans celebrate this day as a national holiday. The British, understandably, don’t.
On 14 July, 1789, a French mob stormed the Bastille, inaugurating one of the most disastrous upheavals in world history. The French celebrate this day as La Fête Nationale. The rest of us don’t.
On 8 May, 1945, Germany capitulated on the Western front. Western allied powers celebrate the day. Germany doesn’t.
On 9 May, 1945, Germany capitulated on the Eastern front. The Russians celebrate this as their Victory Day. The Germans don’t.
The same day, in other words, can be an occasion some want to remember and others would dearly like to forget. This brings us to Mothering Sunday, a Christian holiday celebrated throughout Europe since at least the 16th century.
On that day, the fourth Sunday of Lent, millions of people would go ‘a-mothering’, that is return to their mother church, the main church or cathedral in the area.
Servants and children would be given a day off. On the way to church, the children would celebrate the reprieve from Latin and Greek by picking up wild flowers and giving them to their mothers. After Mass families would eat traditional cakes and buns.
Obviously, such a reactionary, obsolete tradition had no place in a world of modernity championed by the United States. Hence early in the 20th century Americans began to celebrate Mother’s Day instead. Moreover, using the stratagem perfected by modern vandals, they did so on the same day as Mothering Sunday, piggybacking the new on the old.
This is what constitutes the great larceny of modernity: shoplifting the Christian ethos that formed our civilisation and shoving secular simulacra down people’s throats. Tradition was like a spoonful of sugar that, according to Mary Poppins, helps the bitter medicine go down.
In subliminal reference to the Holy Trinity, even the most pernicious slogans of modernity were usually made up of three elements, either words or phrases. This larcenous tradition began with the French liberté, egalité, fraternité, but it didn’t end there.
Americans contributed ‘life, liberty and pursuit of happiness’. The Russian ‘vsia vlast sovetam’ (all power to the Soviets). The Germans ‘ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer’ (one people, one nation, one leader). And even a somewhat less significant revolution had to chip in with a vapid ‘Work harder, produce more, build Grenada!’
The revolutionaries sensed that the world around them was alive with Trinitarian music. As people’s ears were attuned to it, they were predisposed to respond to similar sounds even if they conveyed a different meaning.
Following in the wake of baseball caps, Coke and verbs made out of nouns, American Mother’s Day had also been making steady inroads on traditional Mothering Sunday until it ousted it. This was ominous.
On the face of it, there’s nothing objectionable about celebrating motherhood – it’s something worth celebrating. We all have mothers after all. Yet in the past we also had a Father, whose bride the Church was. The motherhood celebrated on this day was thus spiritual, not physiological – even though human mothers were also honoured by association.
This is now gone. A few church-going Christians still celebrate Mothering Sunday. Many others think it’s just an archaic term for Mother’s Day. Most have never even heard of Mothering Sunday.
So I hope that your joy of celebrating this occasion will be tinged with sadness. For tradition is an anchor that keeps us embedded in our civilisation. Lift the anchor, and the civilisation is cast adrift – this holds true for believer and non-believer alike.
Happy Mothering Sunday to all you fellow reactionaries out there.