Irish Easter Traditions:  Both Sacred and Fun - They Will Light Up your Next Easter Holiday!

There are so many things to know about Irish Easter – they range from religious to historical to simply traditional.  A wonderful and fascinating holiday!  And perfect for expressing your Irish side!

Our Easter celebration always includes an egg hunt.  In any given year we might decorate the baskets with shamrocks, color certain eggs green or gold (with Irish prizes associated with them) or make liberal use of harp or shamrock stickers in the decorating of the area.

Irish Easter Egg Hunt

But that's just us!  There are gazillions of ways to bring your Irish side to an Easter celebration.  And we'll definitely look at a million of them at least.

But first things first...

What (and when) is Easter?

In the Christian tradition Easter commemorates the crucifixion and resurrection (three days later) of Jesus Christ.  It also represents the end of Lent – 40 days of fasting and prayer.

The actual dates of Easter may be anywhere between March 22nd and April 25th in western Christian tradition.  This is because the event is defined by the moon, the vernal equinox and … well … it’s complicated. 

Another interesting tidbit is that the Easter tradition actually has roots prior to Christianity, to celebrate the return of the ‘fertile’ season.  And this brings us to the first Irish Easter expression we would like to mention...

The Irish Easter Egg

Many cultures share this tradition of course.  But do you know where it comes from? 

In Ireland the Easter egg (and other important symbols such as the hare – or ‘bunny,’ get it?) are actually ancient expressions of fertility.

Irish Easter egg with shamrock.

And the idea of an Easter egg hunt actually celebrates a return to the fertile season – Spring!  Flowers blooming. Babies being born.  Eggs being laid.  Land once again becoming fertile. This ancient celebration became connected with Christ’s resurrection and the idea of re-birth.

So, remember the Irish Easter egg.  We’ll come back to that!

Irish Easter Expressions: Good Friday

Good Friday is an observation of the day of Christ’s crucifixion.  Generally, in Ireland, Good Friday is a time of quiet and contemplation. 

One Irish tradition on Good Friday calls for no work outside the home.  That’s the good news! 

The ‘bad news’ is: it’s very typical for Good Friday (and all of Easter weekend really) to be a time of spring cleaning inside the home. 

Irish Easter Spring Cleaning Ahead

But hang on!  There are several other traditions associated with Good Friday that are much more fun!

For example: the tradition of representing a cross in various ways such as

  • Carving the shape into home-baked bread. Today’s hot cross buns are a reflection of this tradition.
  • Painting a cross on Easter eggs
  • Wearing clothing or jewelry containing the shape of a cross

Other Irish expressions associated with Good Friday (and Easter in general) include:

  • Cutting your hair on Good Friday is said to prevent headaches in the year to come.  (Truthfully, I had no idea – I’m going to give it a try this year!)
  • Marking any eggs laid on Good Friday with a cross and eating one on Easter Sunday.  If you don’t have your own chickens, or they don’t seem interested in laying a Good Friday egg, that’s ok – just buy one, mark it yourself and eat it Sunday morning!

Irish Easter Expressions:  Easter Saturday

Depending on your beliefs, this day may be a sacred time of fasting and prayer – or it might just be the day before the neighborhood Easter Egg hunt!

Here are some traditions and other Irish expressions appropriate for Easter Saturday

  • Attend church and observe the hundreds of small candles lit of the Paschal candle that has been blessed by the priest.
  • Drink three sips of holy water for health.
  • Sprinkle holy water on everything for good luck.
  • Observe a time of silence – ranging from a minute to an hour to all day (ouch!)
  • Prepare and color Easter eggs.

Irish Easter Expressions:  Easter Sunday

As I said before, Easter represents the end of 40 days of fasting.  The unfortunate victim of this pent-up hunger is ... wait for it ...

… the herring.

Of course.

Yes, this humble, unsuspecting fish, one of the few sources of protein during the 6 previous weeks of meat-free living, is now the scapegoat (scapefish?) of all that pent-up hunger. 

Easter Sunday traditions involving the herring include:

  • Having a mock funeral for a herring
  • Whipping the herring - seriously people?!
  • Tying a herring to a stick and leading a parade with it…

(In our house we just eat some pickled herring and call it good.)

Irish Easter Herring Traditions

Still more Irish Expressions associated with Easter Sunday include:

  • Wearing new clothes, the colors for girls in particular would include green, yellow and white, signifying purity and a new start to life (notice how so many Easter traditions revolve around this idea of ‘new’?)
  • An Easter Feast, perhaps choosing from many Irish meals and recipes.
  • Have a dancing contest with cake as the prize.  A cake is an ancient symbol of celebration in general, and this tradition is probably where the term ‘take the cake’ comes from.
  • Doing stuff with eggs.  One tradition is to eat them – and lots of them – since they are not permitted during the 40 days of Lent.  I once heard the average Irishman on Easter Sunday consumes six … SIX … eggs.  Others include Easter egg hunts and Easter egg races (rolling them downhill for prizes).
  • A cute variation of the Easter egg hunt is to put a note under a child’s pillow with a clue where to find their Easter basket.  From there, one clue leads to another until the basket is full!

And There You Go! One Gazillion Ideas for a Fun and Memorable Easter Weekend...

Celebrating an Irish Easter is a fun and rewarding way to express your Irish side.

For more ideas on how to demonstrate your passion for Irish culture through holiday celebrations, visit us here!

Meanwhile, if you enjoyed this page, we would love to hear from you. Just send us a note using our contact form.

In the meantime, thank you so much for visiting!  We hope you will continue to share your Irish side with the growing community at Irish!



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