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The history and meaning of Easter in Ireland is long-spanning and multi-faceted. This article reveals the resonance of Easter in Ireland in days of past and present.
Do you celebrate Easter, where you live in the world? If you don't, Easter is a primarily Christian-celebrated festival and cultural holiday.
From a religious standpoint, Easter commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead on his third day since burial following being crucified on the cross by the Romans in 30AD - as described in the new testament of the Christian Bible. A number of customs exist in Ireland to celebrate Easter.
It is worth noting that the annual event is important to Irish people, whether or not they are actually Christian. It is the point in the year that seems to coincide with improved weather and a signpost towards the summer.
Schoolchildren are filled with delight to get a whopping two weeks off school (sometimes to the chagrin of tired parents who struggle to keep them occupied) while those who are working usually enjoy at least one day off with the Bank Holiday Monday that occurs after Easter Sunday.
Easter Sunday does not have a recurring annual date, and instead occurs on the first Sunday after the Paschal full moon (or first full moon on or after 21st March.)
The beginning of the Easter observation period starts on Shrove Tuesday - widely referred to as Pancake Tuesday. This day, for religious folk, would involve taking part in confession and absolution and determining what to give up for 'Lent'. Hence, Pancake Day was born, use up any ingredients that anyone decided to give up for the next month and a half!
So, what is Lent?
Lent commemorates the 40 days in which Jesus Christ spent fasting in the Judaean Desert. It kicks off with Ash Wednesday (directly after Shrove Tuesday) which always occurs exactly 46 days before Easter Sunday.
On Ash Wednesday, religious Irish people attend a special mass at church and receive a mark of the cross on their forehead with ashes from the priest. These ashes are derived from the burnt branches of last year's Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Easter Sunday) ceremony.
As mentioned previously, typically Irish people, religious or otherwise will give something up for lent - for example, chocolate, junk food or alcohol. In decades past, Lent was a lot more widely and strictly observed in Ireland than it is now and may have involved attending mass daily and giving up meat and dairy. However, religious practices have relaxed in the last few decades, and Ireland has become a secular state with residual religious influence.
It's worth noting that even non-religious people may sometimes opt to give something up for lent as a personal challenge for self-control against habits.
Exactly seven days before Easter Sunday, Palm Sunday marks the beginning of 'Easter Week' and commemorates Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, several days before his death and subsequent resurrection, while followers laid down cloaks and palm branches in recognition of Jesus as their non-official King.
Churchgoers may carry palm branches to the church altar to commemorate this
A special mass also occurs on 'Holy Thursday' after Palm Sunday which remembers the story of the Last Supper, in which Jesus Christ predicts his betrayal at the hands of one of his disciples - Judas.
This day specifically marks the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Good Friday in Ireland has evolved in the last few decades, whereby in days of past, people did not go to work, a strict diet of water only, fish and some bread was observed, television stations were off-air and pubs and restaurants closed.
However, in today's Ireland on this day of reflection, people do still go to work, pubs and restaurants no longer need to close and those that observe the Christian religion will not eat meat, in its place eating fish only.
Following on from Good Friday is 'Easter Saturday' whereby the Easter vigil is held after sunset, with purple banners laid out and all candles extinguished with the exception of a single candle representing the impending resurrection.
On Easter Sunday, families gather at Easter Mass to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ who has risen from the dead. This also marks the ending of Lent, which is followed by a large feast and other celebrations.
Religious and non-religious aspects of Easter are often intertwined, such as Shrove Tuesday / Pancake Tuesday as described earlier, and this is no different on Easter Sunday as most Irish people look forward to Easter Sunday dinner.
This is usually a large roast dinner, featuring roast and mashed potatoes, lots of vegetables and the family's meat of choice which may be lamb, chicken, ham or otherwise. And that's not all, for those who've got a sweet tooth.
Easter is notably celebrated in Ireland by means of Easter Eggs, usually made of chocolate, for both children and adults alike.
For children, Easter holds a similar resonance to Christmas in that they look forward to receiving their Easter Eggs (only from the Easter Bunny as opposed to from Santa) and will often be on their best behaviour leading up to it.
Many global chocolate brands take part in the sale of Easter Eggs, including Cadbury- who famously produces the Creme Egg and sells them on a seasonal basis between the 1st January and Easter Day to make them extra special.
On the subsequent Easter Monday, Irish people enjoy a public day off from their busy working lives to do whatever they please - whether this be catching up with family and friends, taking a mini-holiday otherwise relaxing.
While a vast majority of the above customs are celebrated in other countries, there is one Easter observation that is unique to Ireland alone.
On Easter 1916, Irish rebels Michael Collins, Padraig Pearse, James Connolly and more came together to fight back against British rule in Ireland.
What followed from this day was some few years of devastating conflict which eventually resulted in Ireland's independence. Each Easter Sunday, a number of commemorations occur across the country to honour the Irish who fought and died for their country during that bloody time.
Wishing a very Happy Easter to all of our friends across the world. Celebrate with 20% off orders over €50 when you use EASTER2022 at checkout.
This offer expires on the 18th April 2022, 6pm (IST). This discount code cannot be used in conjunction with other offers.