Easter is upon us, and if you’re like me you may be curious about Easter traditions in Ireland. Easter is especially important in Ireland for both religious and secular reasons.
The Easter Rising which led to Irish independence began on Easter Sunday in 1916. A group of Irish rebels banded together to fight against British Rule which, after years of intense fighting, led to the Irish Proclamation of Independence.
Every year on Easter, Ireland holds a commemoration of those who fought and died in the rising - including Michael Collins and James Connolly - which usually includes military processions and a reading of the Proclamation. The 1996 film Michael Collins portrays the Rising and subsequent battle for independence.
As a predominantly Catholic country, Easter is also a religious feast day celebrating the resurrection of Jesus and the end of Lent. Because Lenten traditions include not eating meat (except fish) on Fridays or, as some choose, at all, many Irish families take a piece of meat and hang it on the wall to symbolize temptation and restraint. On Easter Sunday, the meat is taken down and burned in the fire as the rest of the feast meal is prepared to give the house a pleasing aroma in a tradition known as Spoilin meith na hInide. Because of all that fish eating throughout Lent, local butchers often host “A Herring Funeral” on Easter knowing full well their clients are more than sick of the most common fish and won’t be missing it before next year.
In rural locations, eggs laid on Good Friday are marked with a cross and kept until Easter Sunday, when each member of the family (or friends) must eat one “holy egg" which traditionally evokes a blessing. After the dinner feast, each child (or child at heart) gets a chocolate egg as dessert - over 5 million chocolate eggs are sold in Ireland each Easter season which is more than one per person…someone is cheating! Other desserts are eaten too, and I have heard tell of an Easter Cake Dance in which each family member dances a jig after dinner and whomever’s is deemed the best gets the first slice of cake!
Are you looking to incorporate Irish traditions in your home? Will you be partaking in any of these Easter traditions this year? I don’t think I could have meat hanging in the house for 46 days, but I do like the idea of a dance for a slice of cake!