Apart from St. Patrick’s Day, Easter is one of the most important religious dates in the Irish calendar, as they celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and carry out a number of different Irish traditions. Preparation for Easter usually starts on the first day of Lent, 40 days before Easter Sunday. During Lent, fish is typically eaten each Friday and is usually cooked in a soup. It’s a time of self-discipline and a reflection on Irish families coming together. The last weekend during Lent is always the most important part of the fasting period with Palm Sunday a week before Holy week.
Leading up to Easter Sunday, many families prepare their homes for the day by doing what would be better known as “spring cleaning,” to prepare the house for blessing by the local priest. This religious ceremony dates back hundreds of years. No outdoor work should take place on Good Friday in Ireland. Instead, it’s generally treated as a day of rest and preparation of body and soul for Easter. On Good Friday, people attend confessions asking for forgiveness, get their hair cut and shop for new clothes to be worn to Easter mass.
Eggs are not eaten during the time of Lent. They are shown in the household on Good Friday but are not eaten until Easter Sunday. Eggs are painted with different colors and designs and replaced with Chocolate Easters Eggs for the children, with over five million being purchased each year in Ireland.
On Holy Saturday, many Irish take a vow of silence and attend a special ceremony. An Easter vigil usually starts at 10 pm, and churches are decorated in purple banners to celebrate the arrival of the King. All lights in the Church are blown out at 11 pm with a new flame being presented to the altar of the church. This is known as the Paschal candle, a symbol of the Risen Christ and the celebrations of the Holy Flame.
Easter Sunday in many homes is very similar to any other Sunday or religious day. Families come together dressed in their new clothes and attend mass in their local church. After mass everyone makes their way back home to start the Easter feast which is usually made up of servings of potatoes, vegetables, meat, stuffing, bread and anything else that makes up a good proper Irish feast. Easter eggs are always presented to the children after their traditional dinner. It’s said they can only be given to a child who has not broken the Lent fast and who has also finished eating a full Easter dinner.