What’s the difference between English and Chinese Mothers Day?

Happy Mothers Day everybody! (At least in the UK). Since this celebration doesn’t take place in countries, like China, for a while we though it would be interesting to highlight some of the differences between Mothering Sunday in English and Chinese culture.

Mother’s Day or 母亲节 (mǔ qīn jié) typically falls on the second Sunday of May in China. Although it’s not traditionally celebrated like it has been in England, it has seen increasing popularity over time as it fits perfectly with Filial Piety, a belief in Confucian philosophy that one must show a duty of respect to ones elders.

The younger generation are associated with celebrating this holiday and thus isn’t considered an official holiday in the Chinese calendar. The fledgling cohort typically symbolise this celebration by gifting Carnation to their mothers, a flower that is universally synonymous with Mothers Day to symbolise their love. On a wider scale there are national projects undertaken, such as Project Happiness, to educate underprivileged, rural mothers. There is also an award ceremony that highlights the ten most distinguished mothers at the Great Hall of the People in central Beijing.

carnation flowers

Carnation is traditonally associated with Mothers Day

In the United Kingdom Mothers Day, also known as Mothering Sunday, always falls exactly three weeks before Easter Sunday on the fourth Sunday of Lent. Mothers Day is also deeply-rooted in English history. It began under the archaic social model of poor families sending their children to work as servants with the rich. Since these children were away from their families for such a long period of time, people considered it important for the children to visit their families once a year. It was soon considered customary to use the day to visit mothers and bring a gift to them. In turn, it evolved into the modern holiday as we know it.


Simnel Cakes would be taken home to mothers when their children returned home from service. 

A Simnel Cake is synonymous with Mothering Sunday in the UK. This is because traditionally, people fasted during Lent and did not eat meat or sweet, rich foods. However an exception was made on Mothering Sunday in the form of a Simnel cake. It is a light fruit cake covered with a layer of marzipan and with a second layer of marzipan baked into the middle of the cake.

Hopefully, we’ve shed some insight into how a widely-recognised holiday is celebrated in two very different ways. Wherever you are, we hope you’re looking forward to celebrating Mothers Day just as much we are!


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