Easter is the most Holy holidays on the Roman Catholic calendar. In Ireland the Easter traditions are many relating to Christ’s return. Some of the Irish Easter Traditions have come from old Celtic practices regarding the agricultural calendar more than with religion itself.
Easter’s glorious springtime arrival coincides with the Vernal Equinox. The ancient and mystical Celts associated the Vernal Equinox with fertility and performed many rites for fertility. Today for Irish Catholics and Catholics all over the world, Easter Sunday signifies the end of Lent. Lent is a 40-day period of fasting for Catholics from eating meat on Fridays. During this time many people give up traditional vices like smoking or alcohol. Now a days people tend to give up things like Facebook and chocolate. I personally find giving up chocolate to be a great sacrifice. Just saying.
Here are a few of Ireland’s Easter traditions. To some Irish Americans a few of these Irish Easter traditions might seem a wee bit strange.
On Good Friday:
- A complete “spring cleaning” of the home. It’s always good to be tidy.
- No working with tools, in order to avoid spilling any blood from an accident.
- Farm eggs laid on Good Friday are marked with a cross to be eaten with the celebration meal on Easter Sunday.
- If you die on this Good Friday, you go directly to heaven.
- Gather food on the shore, but do not go out fishing in a boat.
- A child born on Good Friday and baptized on Easter Sunday will have the gift of healing. It was thought that boys born and baptized on these days should enter the ministry. Those who die on Good Friday go straight to heaven.
- The Irish usually visit holy wells and graveyards. The Irish believe the water from holy wells have curative properties on Good Friday.
On Easter Saturday:
- Go to church and drink a few sips of holy water, then sprinkle a bit on the family and even the farm animals for good luck.
- Turn off all lights in church at 11 pm and light a Paschal Candle as a symbol of Christ rising from the tomb.
- Bring the cinders and ash from the home fire to be blessed.
On Easter Sunday:
- Get up at sunrise and do a celebration dance.
- Gather your family and go to a hilltop to see the sunrise. Catholics believed that this is the Savior rising from his grave.
- Alternatively, view the reflection of the sun in a bucket of water and then move it so the sun appears to dance.
- A mock funeral is conducted by the town butchers with a dead herring. The poor fish is a symbol of the end of Lent, when some Irish folk once ate lots of herring, because it was the only available alternative to meat.
- Gather for a contest called a “cake dance,” where the winner gets the cake.
- Have a Cludog / Cluideog. This is a ritual where children collect the eggs and cook them with other food in a structure at the edge of the farm. Essentially it’s roasted eggs.
- Celebrate with eggs as a signifier of life. Either color them or give them as gifts.
- Have a feast with your family. Traditionally, leek soup and roast lamb was served.
Most of all have Happy Easter!