Tradition of giving cakes during Lent is no half-baked idea
Mothering Sunday, or Mother's Day as it is now known, falls on the fourth Sunday in Lent, during the 40-day lead-up to Easter.
Some historians believe that the tradition, later hijacked by the early Christian church, has its origins in Roman times.
During the spring feast of Matronalia, they say, the goddess of motherhood was honoured with small cakes presented at her shrine.
Just like Christmas and Easter, this mid-Lenten day has now become very commercialised, with flowers, cards and chocolates on sale everywhere.
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In Britain, however, this was traditionally the Sunday when young people working away from home, such as farm hands, servants and apprentices, were allowed to visit their families and attend a service at their "mother" church, the place where they had been baptised.
It was, in effect, an early spring holiday for workers who normally had little time off.
Known as going "a-mothering", younger children would pick wild flowers to decorate their church.
During, or after the services, they would also give a bunch of spring flowers to their mothers.
An old saying goes: "On Mothering Sunday, above all other, every child should dine with its mother."
This essentially religious tradition gradually evolved into a more secular one, of children giving gifts to their mothers, a century-old tradition which seems to have its roots across the Atlantic.
It is said that American servicemen, here for D-Day, mistook the festivities in Britain for their very own Mother's Day, which was held on the second Sunday in May.
This occasion had been adopted by Congress in 1913 following a campaign by Anna Jarvis, of Philadelphia, who had lost her own mother some years previously.
This cross-fertilisation sowed the seeds for the time when, post-war, Mothering Sunday and Mother's Day were rolled into one.
Also known as Rose Sunday, Pudding Pie Sunday and Simnel Sunday, this was the day when the strict rules about what can be eaten during Lent were relaxed a little.
The church called the day Dominica Refectionis – the Sunday of Refreshment – and from then on it has become synonymous with cakes and ale, slap-up restaurant lunches and boxes of chocolates.
Simnel cake is a rich fruit bake with layers of almond paste, or marzipan (simnel is from simenel, which derives from the Latin, and was the name given to a white flower).
The cake, which is strongly scented, contains sugar, butter, eggs, spices, dried fruits, zest and candied peel.
Eleven marzipan balls, said to represent the 12 apostles, minus the traitor, Judas, top the cake.
The main producers of these delicious cakes – all with their own traditions – were in Bury, Lancashire, Shrewsbury in Shropshire and Devizes in Wiltshire.
Those cakes from Devizes were star-shaped, while Shrewsbury's, which were boiled and then baked, had a thick, hard, yellow-coloured crust, and those from Bury were flat and dense.
In days gone by, Mothering Buns or Mothering Sunday Buns – sweet buns topped with pink or white icing and "hundreds and thousands" – were also available.
In Northern England and Scotland, pancakes made with peas fried in butter were popular. Meanwhile, in parts of Lancashire, the day was also known as Bragot Sunday, after a spicy ale brewed specially for the occasion.
The alternative name of Rose Sunday refers to the priests' purple Lenten robes being replaced by rose-coloured ones.
Another Mothering Sunday tradition is known as "clipping" – a ceremony in which the worshippers' form a ring around the church and then, singing and holding hands, embrace it.
The Saxon word "clipping," which has nothing to do with shears, means to embrace or clasp; an expression of a congregation's devotion to its church.
The tradition, which is still going strong in Painswick, Gloucestershire, is sometimes held on Easter Monday or Shrove Tuesday instead.
In some churches, Mothering Sunday was the only day during Lent when marriages took place.