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What’s happening next Sunday?

crocusesSunday March 10th is Mothering Sunday, or Mother's Day, held on the fourth Sunday of Lent. It is exactly three weeks before Easter Sunday and usually falls in the second half of March or the beginning of April. Traditionally people returned to their family home and visited the church where they were baptised as a celebration of motherhood, taking gifts to their mothers and grandmothers. Anyone who did this was commonly said to have gone "a-mothering". Thus families were reunited as adults returning to the towns and villages where they grew up. In time, it became customary for young people, working as servants in large houses, to be given a holiday on Mothering Sunday. They could use this day to visit their own mother and often took a gift of food or hand-me-down clothing from their employers to her.

Customarily, people observed a fast during the six weeks of Lent; the period from Ash Wednesday until Good Friday; people did not eat sweet, rich foods or meat. But the fast was lifted on Mothering Sunday when many prepared a Simnel cake to eat with their family on the day. Simnel cake (our recipe below) is a light fruit cake covered with a layer of marzipan. Traditionally, Simnel cakes are decorated with 11 or 12 balls of marzipan, representing the 11 disciples. Legend has it that the cake was named after the cook, Lambert Simnel, who worked in the kitchens of Henry 7th of England around the year 1500.

 Of recent interest, it was Henry VII who wrested the crown of England from Richard III at the battle of Bosworth Field in August 1485, at which Richard 3rd was killed. Henry was the first Tudor monarch; his reign being widely held to mark the end of the Middle Ages in England. After the battle Richard’s body was hastily interred at Grey Friars Church, Leicester, and it was only last month that, after a 500 year mystery, his final resting place was identified, now underneath a local authority car park in Leicester.

King Henry 7th of England King Henry 7th of England

A Simnel Cake

By the 1920s the custom of keeping Mothering Sunday had tended to lapse in Europe. In 1914, inspired by Anna Jarvis's efforts in the America, Constance Penswick-Smith created the Mothering Sunday Movement, and in 1921 she wrote a book asking for the revival of the festival. Constance was the daughter of the vicar of Coddington in Nottinghamshire, England, and there is a memorial in Coddington's church. Its wide scale revival was largely through the influence of American and Canadian soldiers serving abroad during World War II; the traditions of Mothering Sunday, still practised by the Church of England were merged with the new world imported traditions and celebrated in the wider Catholic and secular society. Of course merchants saw the commercial opportunity in the holiday and it was relentlessly promoted it in the UK; by the 1950s it was celebrated across all the country.

But although we at Country Attire are delighted to offer a range of gifts suitable for the occasion, we also have our own mothers and grandmothers, and indeed we have many mothers working in our company. So we’re genuinely keen not to over-commercialise this event, and lose its significance in an orgy of excess. So, by all means get together with the family on the day, buy mother a thoughtful gift of quality, remembering what she would actually like. Buy her something memorable, loving and significant. We'd like to encourage everyone, in these austere times, to concentrate on the focus of the day – Mum!

Our Simnel Cake Recipe

Ingredients  (1 cup = 225g or 8oz) 1 cup unsalted butter 1½ cups soft brown sugar 4 medium eggs, beaten 2 cups plain flour ½ teaspoon baking powder 3 teaspoons mixed spice 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg 2 tablespoons cornflour 1 cup sultanas ½ cup currants ½ cup raisins 1/2 cup glace cherries, chopped 2 tablespoons ground almonds grated rind of 1 lemon 3 tablespoons brandy 1½ lbs marzipan a little apricot jam

Method - In large mixing bowl cream the butter and sugar until light in colour and fluffy in texture. - To this add the eggs a little at a time, beating well each time some beaten egg is poured in. - If the mixture looks as if it is curdling add a spoonful of flour and beat in well. - Stir in the dried fruit and the lemon peel. - Sift the flour with the spices, corn flour and baking powder. - Fold the flour mixture into the creamed mixture. - Add the brandy, a little at a time. - Do not allow the mixture to become too wet even if this means leaving out a little of the brandy. - Spoon half of the mixture into a well greased 8 inch tin. - Roll out the marzipan onto a board dusted with icing sugar. - Roll out a circle of 7 3/4 inch diameter and place onto the smoothed cake mix in the tin. - Cover with the rest of the cake mixture and bake at 170 degrees centigrade for about 2 1/4 hours. - The cake should be firm to the touch and a golden brown colour. - Turn cake from tin and allow to cool on a wire cake rack. - Roll out the remaining marzipan and cut out an 8 inch circle. - Stick this marzipan onto the top of the cake with a little melted apricot jelly. - Roll the remaining marzipan into 11 equal balls and use these to decorate the top of the cake. - Tie a decorative, traditionally yellow ribbon around the cake.