It usually seems to be a gloomy time of year when the Christmas festivities are finally over and the dark days of winter stretch before us. The bad weather arrives with a vengeance and unless you are lucky enough to be able to escape to warmer climes for a couple of weeks, there is little respite from the cold weather and not much to look forward to. At last, however, it’s time to reset the clocks to summertime and even though it may still be cold and wet, the days finally become longer and we have Easter to celebrate. Easter for many people is the beginning of spring, which is surely one of the best seasons, with all the new plants shooting and a sort of renewed hope for better times and a long, hot summer.
Easter in Ireland is very special and in many areas a sacred time of prayer and fasting. Traditionally on Good Friday, no one works on the land, just in the house. Other customs include cleaning the house thoroughly inside and for the outside, applying whitewash. This is when you are meant to acquire new clothes, to fast on Good Friday and keep quiet from noon until 3p.m. You are meant to shed no blood, do no work with wood and not hammer any nails. You should visit church, but you have to remove your shoes. You are not supposed to fish with nets or lines on Good Friday and traditionally no fishing boat puts out to sea, instead they gather bia tragha-shore food-seaweed and shellfish for the main meal.
It was thought that if you cut your hair on Good Friday it would prevent headaches in the year to come. If a child was born on Good Friday and baptized on Easter Sunday, it was believed that he or she would have the gift of healing. Any eggs laid on Good Friday would be marked with a cross and eaten on Easter Sunday and eggs that hatched on this day were thought to produce healthy chicks. On Easter Saturday hundreds of small candles are lit in churches from the Paschal candle that has been blessed by the priest. On Easter Sunday a quiet traditional meal would be eaten at home, consisting of leek soup and roasted spring lamb. This would sometimes be followed by a cake dance, the cake being the prize for the best dancer.
Of course today, many of these customs are no longer observed, but the study of them gives a fascinating insight into the lives of people years ago. The Easter Sunday dinner nowadays is similar to the Christmas meal. It can be turkey or lamb, along with potatoes and vegetables. Desert will vary, but usually the children enjoy eating their chocolate Easter eggs!
Of course when you are grown up, chocolate Easter eggs don’t necessarily have the same magic, but if you want to give a special gift to someone dear to you, or if you are getting engaged at Easter, what better gift could there be than a beautiful piece of Celtic jewelry placed inside an Easter egg? It doesn’t need to be a chocolate egg, you can buy decorated cardboard eggs in various sizes, which would hold a ring box and delight both the giver and the recipient. A gift to your mother of a Celtic Cross pendent, or a beautiful pair of Celtic earrings would be especially welcome when presented in this way. For father, husband or fiance’ there are also possibilities, such as tiepins, cufflinks and pendants. If you give a gift of Celtic jewelry this Easter, it will be especially memorable.