The service on Mothering Sunday (3rd April) was a non-denomination service organised by The Friends of Box Hill and was led by Edna Bond.
Edna spoke on the subject of Mothering Sunday with its resonances of Mother Earth, the Mother Church, and motherhood itself; all of which generate, nurture and sustain.
In the classical world the Hilaria festival (from which “hilarious”)which was dedicated to the earth goddess, Cybele, mother of the gods, took place in mid-March. On conversion to Christianity this was replaced by a festival of the Virgin Mary and of the mother church when people would return to Cathedrals and the churches of their childhood on the fourth Sunday of Lent.
Edna explained that the institution of Mothering Sunday, as we know it, dates back to the 17th Century, when those in service were allowed to return home for the day to spend it with their family, and especially their mothers.
Traditionally they were given a simnel cake to take with them. This is a light fruit cake, similar to a Christmas Cake, covered in marzipan, then toasted. On the top of the cake, around the edge, are eleven marzipan balls to represent the true disciples of Jesus; Judas is omitted. In some variations Christ is also represented, by a ball placed at the centre.
The cake is made from these ingredients: white flour, sugar, butter, eggs, fragrant spices, dried fruits, zest and candied peel.
The word “simnel” is probably derived from the Latin word simila, meaning fine, wheaten flour with which the cakes were made.
There is a recipe for simnel cakes, which have become a traditional Easter food at http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/simnelcake_792
We celebrated the sustenance which we receive from Mother Earth, Mother Church and from our own mothers whom we remembered with the parting gift of a flower for each of the women at the service.