The Magic of Mother’s Day
Mimosas, milk chocolate, magnolias, May. These are the things I associate with Mother’s Day.
Since I was old enough to utter the word “mama,” the second Sunday in May had been reserved to honour the matriarchs of the family. Our Montreal traditions included an all-afternoon brunch at the Queen Elizabeth hotel, bottomless boxes of Laura Secord chocolates, and vibrant bouquets to light up the kitchen after a whitewashed Canadian winter. The festivities followed a month of downpour—April showers, May flowers. But while living in constant downpour through the wet UK winter, the surprise of British Mother’s Day (or “Mothering Sunday”) falling in March did not feel quite as foreign as I thought it would.
Last year, at the end of March, I had arrived at my friend’s townhouse in Belfast. She asked me how I felt about helping her bake a carrot cake for her mother.
“Is it her birthday?” I asked eagerly, an avid baker myself.
“No, it’s Mother’s Day. How could you forget?” she asked, perplexed.
It turns out the date of this holiday is not universal, though some of the traditions are. I was curious to mark the differences and similarities on opposite sides of the Atlantic. Now that I have experienced both, with North American Mother’s Day just around the corner, I wanted to share my discoveries.
The similarities and differences between North American and UK Mother’s Days
At half-past noon, after cooling and topping the carrot cake with a thick layer of cream cheese icing (a comforting universal pairing), we hopped in the car to head over to Katherine’s mother’s house. Mother’s Day Brunch — Similarity.
Her mother greeted us at the door with a sparkling cocktail of orange juice and champagne. “Yum mimosas!” I exclaimed. A puzzled expression overtook the faces of both mother and daughter. “This is a Buck’s Fizz, my dear,” her mother replied, sympathetic to my cultural cluelessness. Mimosas were called Buck’s Fizzes in the United Kingdom. I was off to a good start – Difference.
As we sat in the living room and sipped on our Mim Buck’s Fizzes, Katherine’s older brother surfaced from the basement with a bundle of white daffodils and a powder pink envelope. His younger sister followed with a box of chocolates. Granted, Laura Secord—the iconic Canadian heroine of the War of 1812—was not plastered all over the box, but the purple Cadbury assortment was equally, if not more, delicious – Similarity.
After guzzling down the first cocktail for some liquid confidence, Katherine and I snuck into the kitchen to start on the warm spinach and sweet potato salad. “You’ve got to try a Tayto crisp butty. Prawn cocktail are the best.” Katherine then took out two thick pieces of Irish soda bread, smeared them with butter and dumped a snack size bag of crisps from a bright pink bag on top. Though skeptical of the turkey-less treat, I dug into her creation and began an instant love affair that would follow me back to Montreal in a variety pack. “You’ve got to try cheese and onion next,” her mother called from the living room. I could get used to this carbs on carbs on carbs thing — Difference.
The all-you-can-eat buffet we frequent each year on Mother’s Day in Canada leaves us popping at the seams. Thankfully, May is warm enough for sundresses, while the bloating of brunch in Belfast left me feeling even more uncomfortable. “Who would like some tea and digestives?” Hmmm… digestives sound nice. Perhaps some TUMS to ease the pain. That was when her mother ducked into the kitchen and reappeared with a giant platter of chocolate-covered biscuits. Turns out digestives are not quite the same in Northern Ireland — Difference.
Katherine passed the cookies along, advising me to save my appetite. Supposedly, Grandmum Lawrenson had been slaving away all day over Sunday Roast and we were to make our way over there the minute we finished our Earl Grey tea. Her grandmother was as sweet as a Cadbury button. She gave me a huge welcoming hug and I immediately forgot about how full I was. She reminded me of my grandmother back home, who I had not seen in months. Caring and compassionate families — Similarity.
Yes. It may have been March not May, the beverages may have had strange names, and the Lawrensons were certainly different to the Greenbergs, but the magic of Mother’s Day was immutable. Whether crunching down butties in Belfast or spreading shmear on bagels and lox in Montreal, it was soothing to find out that wherever we are in the world, at the end of the day, the love and appreciation we have for our mothers is unconditional.