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Easter Traditions in Ireland

Like many predominantly Christian countries the Easter Holiday period is one of the biggest events on the calendar here in Ireland. 

Each year Irish men, women and children celebrate the arrival of Easter with various Irish traditions, some connected to religion and others not.

To get into the holiday spirit this week we thought we’d take a look at some of these traditions that have lasted generations and generations! Maybe your Irish ancestors celebrated Easter in the same way? Or maybe you even continue the legacy, and connection to the Emerald Isle, to this very day? 

Ash Wednesday and Lenten Period

Although Ash Wednesday and Lent aren’t officially part of the Easter Holiday they are inextricably linked. This is because Christian teachings reveal that at one point Jesus spent 40 days in the desert fasting and ignoring the temptations of Satan and the Lenten period now mirrors this.

Over this period of 46 days (40 days if you exclude Sundays), 6 weeks before Easter, Christians fast, give up vices or commit to some other form of penance in a show of respect and preparation. In Ireland this can range from serious commitments to small challenges such as giving up treats and chocolate.

Ash Wednesday kicks all of this off, is the first day of Lent and is named as such because Mass goers are blessed and marked (on the forehead) with a cross using the burnt ashes of palms used during the previous years Palm Sunday.   

Holy Week

This leads us nicely on to Holy Week, of which Palm Sunday is considered the beginning. Holy Week is the final week of Lent and the week leading up to Easter Sunday, the day of Jesus’ resurrection. 

Throughout Holy Week many Irish take part in various activities to mark the passing of the days and actions that lead to Jesus’ eventual betrayal by the Apostle Judas, his death by crucifixion on Good Friday and his resurrection two days later.

These activities include celebrating Palm Sunday, a day of remembrance of when Jesus triumphantly returned to Jerusalem, Holy Wednesday, Holy Thursday, which commemorates The Last Supper and Good Friday. 

Easter Sunday

All of this, Ash Wednesday, Lent and Holy Week, is done in preparation for Easter Sunday, which is a day of celebration for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In Ireland this is generally celebrated with families coming together to share a special meal such as a roast beef dinner or, in keeping with springtime, lamb. 

As part of these festivities on Easter Sunday many families, usually in rural areas, roll hardboiled eggs down slopes or small hills in a race to determine a winner. It’s just a simple, fun game to pass time before or after the traditional Easter dinner.

These eggs, and other hardboiled eggs, are generally decorated. In years gone by the eggs would be boiled and colourful local flowers, picked from the surrounding countryside, would be dropped in to dye them a certain colour. Nowadays children usually paint the eggs with patterns and designs.

Similar to other British and European countries, Irish children also generally celebrate Easter by eating chocolate shaped eggs and searching the garden for the “Easter Bunny”. This tradition spans thousands of years and is originally linked to pagan celebrations of new life in the springtime!

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Whether you’re religious or not we believe Easter to be a wonderful time to rest, re-energise and spend time with family and loved ones. Spring has well and truly arrived and new life, both in faith and nature, is back in abundance.

We hope you have a wonderful Easter.

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