Mother’s Day

Here in Britain today is Mother’s Day, or Mothering Sunday to give it it’s original title. As it was traditionally associated with the church and Easter, it is what’s known as a moveable feast. It is always on the fourth Sunday in Lent. This year Easter is very late so Mothering Sunday is also late.

Mothering Sunday here began as an explicitly religious event of the 16th Century, with no connection to mothers at all. The word “mothering” referred to the “mother church”, which is to say the main church or cathedral of the region. It became a tradition that, on the fourth Sunday of Lent, people would return to their mother church for a special service. This pilgrimage was apparently known as “going a-mothering”, and became something of a holiday event, with domestic servants traditionally given the day off to visit their own families as well as their mother church. It is said that on their way home they would pick some wild flowers from the hedgerows to give to their mothers.

When I was a child we three children always made a fuss of our mum on Mothering Sunday. We would buy or make a card and buy a small gift with our pocket money, often a bunch of flowers or a house plant. We also, encouraged by our dad when we were very young, made an effort to be of some help to her and to lighten her workload for a day. It usually only amounted to making her a cup of tea or helping with the washing up.

As a mum myself, anything my daughters bought me, made me or did for me on Mother’s Day always touched me and still does. As a teacher I enjoyed seeing the love and care the children put into making a card to take home for their mothers – or, if the mum was not in their lives, for their gran or a special aunt. The commercial side of the day has greatly increased since the 1950s but now as then, it’s the sentiments which count. A loving message, some flowers, a carefully chosen card, a hand made card from a young son, daughter or grandchild, a small personal gift – these are the things which melt our hearts.

Only recently I discovered that, although most countries have a Mother’s Day, the date varies.

The extent of the celebrations varies greatly. In some countries, it is potentially offensive to one’s mother not to mark Mother’s Day. In others, it is a little-known festival celebrated mainly by immigrants, or covered by the media as a taste of foreign culture.

In America the Mother’s Day holiday arose in the 1900s as a result of the efforts of Anna Jarvis, daughter of Ann Reeves Jarvis. Following her mother’s 1905 death, Anna Jarvis conceived of Mother’s Day as a way of honoring the sacrifices mothers made for their children. Years later, Jarvis openly criticised the way the day had become commercialised.

In the Catholic Church, the holiday is strongly associated with revering the Virgin Mary. In some Catholic homes, families have a special shrine devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In many Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, a special prayer service is held in honor of the Theotokos Virgin Mary.

In Islam there is no official Mother’s Day, but the Quran teaches that children should give priority to loving their mother over their father.

Happy Mother’s Day to all mums reading this whether your day is today or on another day!!

Images and some information sourced from the Internet. If anyone objects to any of this post’s content please contact me directly.

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Perfume – or Scent as we called it then.

First of all, I want to say that I love perfume so the research for this post has been very enjoyable. I feel undressed without a hint of perfume about me, however subtle. I have been known to ask perfect strangers what perfume they’re wearing when I smell one I like on them.

Secondly, my friend Sue suggested this topic to me. Unfortunately, Sue is anosmic so has no sense of smell whatsoever, although she is able to remember the smells she used to like before losing the ability to smell them.

Here are a few quotes about perfume:

A woman’s perfume tells more about her than her handwriting. — Christian Dior

Perfume is the key to our memories. — The Perfume Garden

What do I wear to bed? Why, Chanel No. 5 of course. — Marilyn Monroe

Long after one has forgotten what a woman wore, the memory of her perfume lingers. — Christian Dior.

So, getting back to the 1950s and 60s. When I was a child we knew it as scent, not perfume or fragrance. It usually came in tiny bottles and was dabbed out direct from the bottle onto the skin. Always behind the ears and on the inside of the wrists. From being very young I was always intrigued by perfumes. Top of the range perfumes were around at that time – Chanel, Dior, Estee Lauder and Guerlain, for example. But none of the mums and aunts I knew in the 50s wore any of those. I’m sure they weren’t sold in your average small town Boots or chemist’s shop. So this is my own memory of perfume in the 50s, not a definitive history.

Many perfumes were simply flower perfumes. Probably one of the first I ever owned was a little bottle of Devon Violets bought in Devon with holiday spending money. Then there was Apple Blossom, English Lavender, Lily of the Valley (Muguet des Bois if you were feeling posh!) and various rose perfumes.

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There was also something known just as eau de cologne. I believe the one known as ‘the original eau de cologne’ is the famous 4711 which I didn’t come across until the 1970s. The non-specific eau de cologne I remember was splashed around by ladies in hot weather, dotted onto cotton hankies and dabbed on the temples if one had a headache.

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For going out, (which my mum and dad didn’t do very often!) my mum’s ‘best’ perfume was White Fire. If I smelled that now it would take me right back to my mum getting ready in a pretty 50s full-skirted dance dress, a stole and dabbing scent from her tiny bottle of White Fire. I have looked it up and it was made by Grossmith. They still make perfume and at some point there was talk of White Fire being re-released but as far as I can see it hasn’t been.

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The other ‘best’ perfume I remember my mum having in the 1950s was Evening in Paris which sounded so glamorous to me!

As children, we loved making perfume in the summer. We would gather up rose petals, crush them in water with a little salt then decant the resulting ‘perfume’ into old aspirin bottles or whatever we could find that was available. This was given as presents to our mum, our grandmothers and various other relatives – and was probably vile!

Moving on the men’s fragrances now and the one which springs straight to mind is Old Spice. Looking up the history of aftershave when researching for this post, I learned that aftershave began as an antiseptic to prevent nicks and cuts becoming infected, progressed to include skin calming ingredients to ease the sting of freshly shaved skin, then was enhanced by the use of perfume. Old Spice was launched in 1937 – as a women’s fragrance. Old Spice for Men arrived the following year.

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However, this blog is based on personal recollection and it seems to me that when TVs and TV advertising entered our homes men were suddenly exposed to ads for Old Spice aftershave featuring impossibly hunky men and rugged sailing ships. I know that in our house it was only after seeing the ads that we started buying our dad aftershave for birthdays or Christmas. I can also remember us thinking we were extremely modern when we bought our dad some pre-electric shave lotion when he acquired his first electric razor.

I will probably write a Part 2 at some point and talk about some of the new fragrances which came out in the 1960s.