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Easter 2018 and 2019

Easter is one of the most celebrated of all Irish holidays. Additionally, Easter Monday is a bank holiday, and Good Friday is much observed, with many schools and businesses shutting down.

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The build-up to Easter begins 40 days earlier, with the commencement of Lent, when many Irish refrain from eating meat, except for fish on Fridays. They also often give up some other loved food or activity during the Lenten season. In Ireland, fish soup is usually the form that Friday Lenten fish eating takes, and the last week of Lent, Holy Week, is especially strictly observed.

As Easter nears, the Irish engage in spring cleaning, sometimes to prepare their house for a special blessing by a local priest. When Good Friday arrives, fasting becomes more intense, some not eating at all until noon and then only eating a crust of bread and three sips of water. Many also refrain from work outside the home, go to mass to confess sins and hear a special sermon, cut their hair and finger and toe nails, and shop for new clothes to wear to mass on Easter Sunday. There is also a tradition of keeping silent from 12 noon till 3pm to reflect on the meaning of Christ’s death. Finally, chicken eggs laid on Good Friday have a cross drawn on them, and everyone eats one on Easter if there are enough.

On Holy Saturday, holy water may be sprinkled all over the house to ensure good luck and coals from a fire be blessed for the same purpose. A Easter vigil will normally be held, involving a “paschal candle” being placed on the altar to signify the Resurrection. Inside the home, the Irish sense of humour overtakes some, however, and a fake funeral for a herring is held since so many herrings perish during Lent.

When Easter Sunday arrives, people put on new clothes and go to mass again. Some also climb a hill to see the sun rise, comparing this to the rising of Christ from the grave. On farms, it is traditional to cook roasted Easter eggs, but in most places, they are just boiled. Chocolate eggs are actually more common nowadays than are hard boiled, painted eggs. Some Easter eggs are give to children if they did not break Lent and if they finished their Easter dinner. Parents are notorious for fudging a bit on “the rules, however.

The highlight of Easter Day is often the family feast, which will typically include roast lamb as the main dish, leek soup, potatoes, some form of vegetable, and all manner of traditional Irish dishes like corned beef and cabbage or deep-fried battered sausages.

Those visiting Ireland at Easter time will find many special activities, including:

  • Easter egg hunts, such as the one at Greenan Maze in Wicklow. The one who finds a golden egg wins a prize, besides getting to eat the egg itself. There are many other egg hunts as well, such as the one at Ardgillan Castle in Dublin, and the Easter Bunny makes an appearance in numerous stores and malls.
  • The Chocolate Garden of Ireland Workshops in Carlow. Here, those of all ages can learn how chocolate is made, from bean to cocoa powder to chocolate bunny. They also get to decorate their own chocolate sweet and take it home with them if they can resist eating before they leave. There is also a chance to learn how ice cream is made and to taste some premium flavours.
  • The military parade that commemorates the Easter Rising of 1916, which triggered a series of events eventually leading to an independent Irish republic. There are rallies as well in some locations, and you can see the plaque on the famed Dublin General Post Office and relax in the Garden of Remembrance that commemorates the Easter Monday rebellion.

The tourist will find a plethora of Easter events in Ireland, besides church services and traditional cuisine in homes and restaurants.