The first ever movement for the recognition of motherhood arose from the groups for women whose sons had fought in the American Civil War. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson decreed the second Sunday of May as Mother’s Day. It spread to Europe in the aftermath of the First World War, when many women had lost their sons or husbands, leaving them to raise their children alone.
The origins of the British date are a little more complicated. Some believe Mothering Sunday originally derived from a 16th-century practice of visiting the “mother church” - the main church in the region - on Laetare Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent. This was also when domestic servants were given time off to visit their families.
On Mothering Sunday because it falls in the middle of Lent and so represents a relaxation of the fasting rules. For this reason, the day was also traditionally called Refreshment Sunday.
It was customary for people in Britain to cook their mothers a simnel cake – a type of light fruit cake with two layers of marzipan
Today, gifts of flowers or chocolates are more usual.