A Posy of Violets on Mother’s Day
Mother’s Day or Mothering Sunday has been celebrated here in Britain for a very long time. Here I'm exploring some of the history of the Day and it's links with scented flowers.
The terms Mother’s Day and Mothering Sunday are used more-or-less interchangeably, but historically they are different events. The modern Mother’s Day was ‘invented’ in the United States by Julia Ward Howe who wrote The Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870 and Ann Jarvis and her daughter Anna who, in the early years of the 20th Century first founded work-groups and later started a campaign for an official US holiday. President WoodrowWilson signed that into US law in 1914, establishing the holiday and fixing the date as the 2nd Sunday in May. Many other countries, often replacing or incorporating existing traditions, have taken up this form and date since.
|Wild Violets for Mother's Day|
painting by artist Paul Wolber
Here in Britain, the much older tradition of Mothering Sunday retains its status as a movable feast, celebrated on the 4th Sunday of Lent. Thought to go back to the 16th Century practice of returning to one’s mother church – usually the nearest Cathedral – on this day, dispersed families were thus enabled to be united. This in turn is thought to derive from an earlier Roman festival honouring the mother goddess Cybele which was held in mid-March.
In the Church of England, during the Mothering Sunday service in many churches it became usual for children to give small posies of flowers to their mothers and violets in particular often featured in these: the practice was common in the 50s and still happens in some churches today.
Violets – the scented kind – Viola odorata – have a special place in perfumery. The scent of violet flowers is sometimes described as ‘flirty’ because it seems to come and go – a feature of the ionones from which the scent is mainly composed. It has been valued in perfumery for at least 400 years but the scent has always been difficult to capture. Around the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century – just about when Mother’s Day was being established in the United States – violet perfumes were all the rage. At this time something very special was available – violet flower absolute – made by solvent extraction from violet flowers and distilled down to the essential principle of the scent of violets.
|Image courtesy of Wikipedia|
Oddly enough though, the little violet has the last word: even today perfumers the world over use one of a tiny number of natural green notes: violet leaf absolute with just a touch of the violet flower hidden within it, it is a lovely material. You’ll see this romantically described in the scent notes of a perfume as crushed violet leaves – so next time you see that in a description, you’ll know what it means.
|Jacinth by Pell Wall|
One option is a posy of mixed flowers – in my own range I have Jacinth – a sparkling mix of roses, orange flower, ylang and lily and that precious narcissus absolute is in it too.
|Deep Purple by Pell Wall|
Deep Purple is a true violet scent that might make a perfect alternative to the traditional posy of violets on Mothering Sunday.