Irish Traditions

In Ireland tradition is a major part of the culture.  Holidays are celebrated yearly and the children have active roles in these celebrations.

Public Holidays in Ireland

January 1st: New Year's Day
March 17th: St. Patrick's Day
Tuesday before Ash Wednesday: Shrove Tuesday
Friday before Easter: Good Friday
Monday after Easter: Easter Monday
First Monday in May: May Day Holiday
First Monday in June: June Holiday
First Monday in August: August Holiday
Last Monday in October: October Holiday
December 25th: Christmas Day
December 26th: St. Stephen's Day

Christmas

The first step in preparing for Christmas is to clean the house. Then the decorating and baking begin! Decorating in Ireland incorporates other national traditions such as the German Christmas tree. Long before that was common, however, Irish homes were decorated throughout with holly and mistletoe. Holly was valued as a way to keep the earth beautiful after deciduous trees had lost their leaves and color. In time the green plant became a Christmas tradition and the red berries came to symbolize Christ's blood.

Once the house is decorated, it is time to bake! The Christmas cooking would start early with the making of the plum pudding, breads and spiced beef. A traditional Irish Christmas meal might consist of roasted goose, potatoes, cranberry sauce, vegetables, sausages, and puddings. Spiced beef is often eaten sliced cold with fresh bread in the days after the main feast.

On Christmas Eve, children put out sacks for Santa to fill later that night with presents.  It is tradition to leave out mince pies and a bottle of Guinness as a snack for Santa. Then on Christmas morning the celebration begins!


Easter

It used to be custom in Ireland to eat as many eggs as you could at the Easter Sunday breakfast. Afterwards, children asked each other “How many eggs did you eat.” You’d be very proud if you could say you ate the most!
Children decorated eggs just as they do today. There were dozens because eggs weren’t eaten during Lent; the hens didn’t know that and kept laying them!

During Holy Week - the week before Easter Sunday - children collected eggs from relatives and neighbours. These eggs were for a special children’s feast called the clúdog or clúideog. Boys and girls would find a quiet spot in a field, make a little fire and cook their eggs. These would be eaten with griddle cakes, butter, bread and sweets. At the end of the feast, the eggshells were saved for the May Bush - but that’s another story!

“Shrove” Tuesday

Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, gets its name from the word "shrive" meaning to confess sins and receive absolution. It is called this because it is a custom to go to confession before the penetential 40-day period of Lent begins, on Ash Wednesday.

Before Vatican II, the Lenten Fast and Abstinence rules were very strict and banned the consumption of many different things on top of meat such as butter, cream, eggs, and fat.  On Shrove Tuesday it is tradition to eat all of those things.  Normally the meals are large, and full of good food.  It has also become tradition to make Irish pancakes, in order to use up all of the left over eggs, dairy products, and fat. 
   
         Recipe for Irish Pancakes

Shrove Tuesday is considered a lucky day to marry because the Church used to ban marriages during Lent.  This has continued even though they are now allowed.  Shrove Tuesday is considered a day of fun, an abundance of good food, and rowdy sports and mischief.


References

Friend, Pat. 2005. "Irish and Celtic Holidays." Retrieved April 22, 2006. (http://allaboutirish.com/)

Of-Ireland.info. 1999. "Irish Ways." Retreived April, 22, 2006. (http://www.of-ireland.info/).

Romily, Deborah. 2006. "The Irish Traditions." Retrieved April, 20,2006. (http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~irelandlist/trad.html).