Meanwhile, in Ireland: Irish Mother’s Day

Art courtesy of Sabrina Moody. Translation of the Irish words: “Mother, my love” – Pronounced Ah Maw+air Moh Graw

Art courtesy of Sabrina Moody. Translation of the Irish words: “Mother, my love” – Pronounced Ah Maw+air Moh Graw

Beannachtai lá na mathair do gach einne (Pronounced Bawn+awk+tey Lay Nuh Maw+air Doh Gok Ey+Nuh). Happy Mother’s Day! 

Now I’m sure most of you are wondering what I am going on about. Well, American Mother’s Day, of course, doesn’t happen until May, but Irish Mother’s Day is actually held in March. This year, 2023, it is on 19 March. It was born from a very dark time in Irish history.

Known as “Mothering Sunday,” this celebration coincides with Mid-Lent Sunday of the Christian celebration of Lent – the time of preparation leading up to the Crucifixion of Christ and subsequent Resurrection on Easter Sunday. This practice of having Mother’s Day on this day stems back to the medieval period and, in short, results from the days when many children would be sent off to work for wealthier families. 

On the Fourth Sunday of Lent, these children would be allowed back home to visit their “Mother Church” for the purpose of remembering the Holy Mother Mary. Such an event would see special mass services held in honour of the Holy Mother. In most cases, the children would return to their families. It became a popular practice for these children to celebrate their own mothers on this day, usually doing so through the presenting of wildflower bouquets the children would pick as they travelled home.

Like many old traditions in Ireland, this celebration saw a decline to near extinction between the 17th and 18th centuries, due to the suppression of Irish culture by the Irish Penal Laws established by Oliver Cromwell. However, it saw a revival following the Second World War, partially due to inspiration from the forming of American Mother’s Day brought to Ireland through American soldiers being stationed in Europe during the war. Nowadays, Irish Mother’s Day is very much the same as American Mother’s Day, just falling on a different day of the year, though there is still a traditional way to celebrate an Irish Mother!

Here are the traditions and ways to celebrate Irish Mother’s Day:

  • The mother gets to stay in bed and is given breakfast there by her adoring children.
  • Bring flowers of the fairest, bring flowers of the rarest, as the old hymn goes.
  • She is allowed to pick her favorite restaurant, no surprises like for her birthday
  • If there are young babies involved, Dad completely takes over the chores of diapers etc. for the day
  • In the old days, a trip to the cinema was considered a great treat.
  • Mothers and Grandmothers often gather together for a coffee for a good old gossip
  • Kids are dressed in Sunday best
  •  Special mass services are held and families attend, in honour of the Holy Mother Mary and to celebrate women