The Mothers -The Venerable Bede, writing about the customs of the Pagan Anglo Saxons in England, mentioned their practice of celebrating a holiday he called Modranicht or Modresnacht on the eve of Christmas. In his account of the Pagan calendar in 725 CE, he said:
“And the very night that is sacrosanct to us, these people call modranect, that is, the mothers’ night, a name bestowed, I suspect, on account of the ceremonies which they performed while watching this night through.”
This ‘night of the Mothers’ was evidently a sacred night devoted to a group of feminine divinities, like those pictured on carvings and statues all over Celtic France and Britain which show three women together, holding children and fruit, fish, grain and other bounties of the earth.
In Shetland, into recent times, it was called Helya’s Night when each child was committed into the protection of Mother Mary. Helya may be a corruption of the Old Norse heilagr, meaning holy. This is probably Mother’s Night overlaid with a Christian veneer.  An account written in the nineteenth century says that, once the children were in bed, the old woman (the reporter’s grandmother) rose from her place by the peat fire and made her way over to the cradle where the youngest lay. Raising her hands over the slumbering infant, she spoke aloud:
Mary Midder had de haund
Ower aboot for sleepin-baund
Had da lass an’ had da wife,
Had da bairn a’ its life.
Mary Midder had de haund.
Roond da infants o’ wur land.
This procedure was repeated over all the children, while the grandfather sat raking the peats in the hearth. The old man was also thought to have been reciting something but, unfortunately, his softly spoken words were inaudible.
Anna Franklin, Yule (The Eight Sabbats)