Largely a Roman Catholic holiday in Ireland, Easter is the second largest festival – after Christmas – on the church calendar.
Beginning on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, the ‘Easter Season’ lasts 40 days until Easter Sunday. During Lent, you’ll find plenty of people across the country giving up their vices, such as chocolate, cigarettes and alcohol.
Pubs aren’t allowed to open on Good Friday – the exception being hotel pubs which can serve drinks to their residents – and you’ll find that quite a few businesses will also close in observance of the Holy Day. As Monday is a Bank Holiday, this makes for a nice, long weekend.
Easter Sunday draws crowds to Mass which is often followed by a large family dinner. Spring lamb will likely be on the menu, as will simnel cakes and hot cross buns – both imported traditions from across the Channel.
NO EGG HIDING BUNNIES
Our friend Susan, who publishes Vibrant Ireland, says the biggest thing she’s noticed, as a US expat, is that the Easter Bunny really isn’t a big part of the holiday. Neither, she says, is coloring eggs.
But that is slowly changing says Felicity Hayes-McCoy, author of The House on an Irish Hillside: “The eggs, the bunny, and so on have pre-Christian roots and, from the Early Middle Ages, the church here was in the business of eradicating those and the Pagan spring festivals they belonged to… hence they’ve only returned via commercialization from the UK and US.”
Though you won’t often find it in private homes, the Easter Hunt may be found in some communities as fundraisers for local GAA leagues or historic sites.
A TIME FOR HOME AND FAMILY
Garden centers begin to do brisk business around Easter as people look at flowers to brighten their lawns as well as tools for “spring cleaning.” It’s also a great way to keep the kids busy, since schools in Ireland close for two weeks during Lent and through Easter.
Miriam Barry, proprietor of The Old Bank in Bruff, says families will often use the ‘spring break’ for a quick getaway with the kids – preferably someplace sunny, though many will travel across Ireland to visit grandparents and cousins.
If your Ireland vacation coincides with Easter, take the time to check with your B&B host, cottage owner or hotel, to see what preparations you might need to make for shopping and touring. And don’t forget to ask about local events that may be happening – it’s the perfect opportunity to get a unique Irish experience!