Sarah Todd: Give me Mother’s Day without the commercialism

An eggcup of snowdrops would be the ideal Mother's Day gift for Sarah Todd.
An eggcup of snowdrops would be the ideal Mother's Day gift for Sarah Todd.
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DESIGNER handbag, cashmere jumper, overnight stay at a health spa…

When did all of these – plus jewellery and a slap-up meal with a glass of battery acid relabelled Prosecco – become part and parcel of tomorrow’s celebration of Mother’s Day?

Such conspicuous consumption is symbolic of a nation that seems unable to express itself without spending money. Emotionally bankrupt, the only option for many seems to be flashing the credit card.

My own mother has never been one for fancy bouquets of flowers – a seasonal handful of tulips are more her thing – and it’s a sentiment that has been passed on. This household has swung from funereal lilies (the baby years) to garage forecourt chrysanths and finally, after 16 years of motherhood, they seem to have realised that an eggcup full of snowdrops with a morning brew in a favourite mug means so much more. Absolute heaven would be being left in peace to listen to the omnibus edition of The Archers; but mustn’t get hopes too high.

Drawers are stuffed with home-made cards that it seems sacrilege to throw away. Last year’s had a funny little woman with wild red hair behind the wheel of a big old horsebox. They are often a thoughtless pair and these cards will have been scribbled in fear at goodness knows what time the night before. But I almost dread the day they are driving and have cash in their pockets to call around at a card shop. It won’t be the same as these hand-drawn panic cards.

One year, they were super organised, got their father’s card number and ordered one of these modern online “personalised” cards. A printed envelope arrived and the card meant absolutely zero. They looked heartbroken at their cruel mother’s lack of animation. But hell would have to freeze over before a card created by a computer without a single word of their own handwriting would mean anything.

Figures from last year showed an average spend of £58 each on Mother’s Day, yet 86 per cent of mothers said they would rather have some quality time with their offspring. Old people’s homes are often bereft of visitors but come high days and holidays they’re bursting at the seams. Bet they’d all rather have a friendly face visiting on a wet Wednesday afternoon rather than an extravagant bouquet that they’re arthritic hands won’t be able to unwrap and that will wilt within a day’s exposure to the central heating.

It had always struck this correspondent as an American idea, but Mothering Sunday has its origins as a Christian celebration, with the date falling exactly three weeks before Easter Sunday. It was originally a day for servants to go to their hometown and worship in their local or “mother” church with their families. On their way home, these returning youngsters would pick wild flowers to place in the church – or give to their mothers.

So, another Christian celebration hijacked by the commercialism of modern life. Three weeks until Easter Sunday and the marketing machine is already in overdrive for another orgy of indulgence. It’s all crackers. Talking of crackers, have you heard that’s what people are buying? Waitrose is already reporting sales of Easter crackers (think chicks and bunnies rather than robins and reindeer) up 63 per cent up on last year.

Presents, cards, decorations; it’s been hijacked by those who want to sell us something. People seem to have no shame that they don’t go to church at Easter. It’s Christmas all over again.

We’re not overly religious, but our children have never been allowed to eat so much as a cream egg without going to church at Easter. Whether it means anything or not, it seems wrong to indulge without so much as a nod to Him Upstairs.

Same at Christmas. How can you open presents and “celebrate” an event if you show absolutely no respect for its true meaning?

A lunch out is great (though often overpriced and short on smiles from waiting staff who would rather be unwrapping their own Easter eggs) as is getting together at home. But family gatherings are under so much more pressure than the days of simply slamming in the lamb. Our houses are supposed look like something out of a glossy magazine and we’re under pressure from television advertising to create something Mary Berry would be proud of. It’s all so much hassle and a million miles away from the true spirit of the occasions.

Some of our best family meals have been ad-hoc affairs. No tablecloth, no atmospheric candles – just a bit of beef and a bottle of wine. Maybe an apple crumble for afters.

Finally, if you’re a mother and get a headache tomorrow, strictly follow the instructions on the painkillers. Take two tablets and keep away from children...

Sarah Todd is a former editor of Yorkshire Life magazine. She is a farmer’s daughter, mother and journalist specialising in country life.