This week was the first day of spring on March 20, “And Spring arose on the garden fair, Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere; And each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.” — Percy Bysshe Shelley, “The Sensitive Plant”
Spring is about a change in vision. Part of this is the increasing sunlight and warmth returning to the land, this year in fits and starts. The sky has a variety of light based on the clouds. Flowers appear in waves. Animals such as squirrels wake up from their hibernation.
The Fourth Sunday of Lent is “Mothering Sunday” expressed with baking simnel cakes. It is sometimes called refreshment Sunday. This comes from Galatians 4:26 “But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.”
There are several possible origins of this tradition:
1. A tradition of visiting one’s mother after this particular service. Expecting their families, mothers would bake this cake to serve with tea.
2. Serving girls on estates and in households were allowed this Sunday off to visit their mothers.
3. A family would travel to its ‘Mother Church,’ or parish they were originally from, on this Sunday.
These cakes became popular over time for that occasion midway through Lent, which was a good time to break the fasting a little. Much like the third Sunday of Advent, ‘Stir Up Sunday,’ with its baking tradition. “Simnel” is from the Latin ‘similis,’ as in similar or same, as the cakes were originally made with equal parts of flour and sugar.
But today is also sometimes known as Refreshment Sunday. Rather like the 3rd Sunday of Advent, it’s a day which stands towards the middle of the season of Lent, and traditionally, a certain amount of relaxation of Lent was allowed.