Celebrating Easter in Ireland: A Great Spring Getaway

Easter in Ireland

Updated On: April 15, 2024 by   Ciaran ConnollyCiaran Connolly

Spending Easter in Ireland is the perfect way to experience the beautiful Emerald Isle during Spring. There are many reasons why Easter is one of the Irish people’s favourite holidays. It signifies the start of spring and, hopefully, the appearance of sunshine after a cold winter.

Easter Monday is also the first official bank holiday of the year for people in Ireland and Northern Ireland. This bank holiday weekend provides time to relax, enjoy the company of family and friends, and, of course, eat as much chocolate as possible.

In this article, we explore how Easter is celebrated in Ireland. From traditional Easter celebrations to events across Ireland, we’re covering everything you need to know for the best Easter in Ireland.

Celebrating Easter in Ireland: A Great Spring Getaway
The Easter bunny is a symbol of the holiday.
Celebrating Easter in Ireland: A Great Spring Getaway
Lambs symbolise Easter in Ireland.

Significant Days During Easter in Ireland

After St. Patrick’s Day, Easter is one of the most important religious dates for the Irish people. Although Easter celebrations are pretty similar around the world, Ireland has its own unique traditions.

During the lead-up to Easter in Ireland, many significant days are marked with customs and traditions. We explore some of these critical days below:

Pancake Tuesday

Shrove Tuesday, also known as Pancake Tuesday in Ireland and Fat Tuesday in the USA, is a traditional Christian feast day that marks the last day before the beginning of Lent, leading up to Easter Sunday. The word “shrove” is derived from the old English word “shrive,” which means to confess one’s sins and receive forgiveness.

In Ireland, Pancake Tuesday is celebrated with various customs and traditions. The most common tradition involves the consumption of pancakes. Pancakes are associated with Shrove Tuesday because they were a way for people to use up rich foods such as eggs, milk, and sugar before the fasting period of Lent began.

Families and communities often gather on Shrove Tuesday to make and enjoy pancakes. It is a time for people to indulge in delicious treats and enjoy each other’s company before the solemnity of Lent sets in. Some households may host pancake parties or pancake-flipping competitions, adding a festive element to the day.

Celebrating Easter in Ireland: A Great Spring Getaway
Pancake Tuesday is a popular part of Easter in Ireland.

In addition to consuming pancakes, Shrove Tuesday in Ireland may also involve attending church services for confession and receiving absolution. This spiritual preparation sets the tone for the upcoming Lent season, encouraging reflection, repentance, and renewal.

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent in the Christian calendar, following Shrove Tuesday. Many Christian denominations observe it, including Catholics, Anglicans, and Lutherans. It takes place 46 days before Easter Sunday.

The name “Ash Wednesday” is derived from the custom of placing ashes on believers’ foreheads in the shape of a cross, symbolizing mortality and penance. Many attend church services, where they receive ashes on their foreheads in the cross sign. The ashes used for this ritual are typically made by burning the palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebrations.

As churchgoers have the ashes placed on their foreheads, the priest or minister administering the ashes often utters the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” This reminds believers of their mortality and the need for repentance.

On Ash Wednesday, Catholics and some other Christians also observe fasting and abstinence from meat as a sign of penance and solidarity with Christ’s suffering. This may involve refraining from eating meat throughout the day or abstaining from one or two meals.

Celebrating Easter in Ireland: A Great Spring Getaway
Many Christians attend church services throughout Easter.

Lent

Lent is a significant period in the Christian liturgical calendar that spans approximately 40 days, excluding Sundays, leading up to Easter Sunday. Lent commemorates the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert, as recorded in the Gospels, where he faced temptations from Satan.

In Ireland, many Catholics and other Christian communities observe Lent with reverence and solemnity. It is a time for believers to reflect on their faith, repent for their sins, and draw closer to God through prayer and self-denial.

One of the central practices of Lent is fasting, which often involves abstaining from certain foods or activities as a form of penance and spiritual discipline. Meat is usually a crucial part of fasting, and many Christians will abstain from eating meat on Fridays throughout Lent.

Many individuals also choose to give up luxuries or indulgences during Lent, such as sweets, alcohol, or social media, to focus more fully on their relationship with God.

Prayer is also a key component of Lenten observance in Ireland. Believers may participate in special Lenten prayer services, attend retreats, or engage in personal devotions to deepen their spiritual lives. Some churches hold extra services during Lent, such as Stations of the Cross, which allow worshippers to meditate on the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion.

Celebrating Easter in Ireland: A Great Spring Getaway
Easter celebrates the crucifixion of Jesus and his rise from the grave.

In addition to fasting and prayer, almsgiving is another traditional Lenten practice in Ireland. This involves acts of charity and generosity towards those in need, reflecting Jesus’ teachings on compassion and love for others. Many individuals and communities use Lent to support charitable causes, volunteer their time, or donate to organizations that serve the marginalized and vulnerable.

Palm Sunday & Holy Week

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week in the Christian calendar and commemorates Jesus Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, as described in the Gospels. According to the biblical accounts, crowds welcomed Jesus into the city by waving palm branches and laying them on the ground before him, symbolizing his arrival as the Messiah.

In Ireland, Palm Sunday is celebrated with special church services that often include the blessing of palm branches and a procession reenacting Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Parishioners may carry palm branches or other greenery as they process into the church, singing hymns and songs of praise.

The palm branches are typically blessed by the priest during the service and distributed to the congregation as a reminder of Jesus’ kingship and the beginning of Holy Week. Holy Week, which follows Palm Sunday, is the most sacred period in the Christian calendar and commemorates the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.

In Ireland, Holy Week is marked by a series of liturgical services and devotions that invite believers to reflect on Jesus Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection. These services often include special readings, prayers, and rituals that help worshippers enter more deeply into the mystery of Christ’s sacrifice.

Celebrating Easter in Ireland: A Great Spring Getaway
Palm leaves are symbolic of Easter in Ireland.

Throughout Holy Week, many churches in Ireland hold services such as Tenebrae, a solemn liturgy featuring the gradual extinguishing of candles to symbolize the growing darkness of Jesus’ betrayal and death.

A Typical Easter in Ireland

Many Irish start preparing for Easter Sunday a few days before by doing what would better be known as “spring cleaning.” Some Irish homes welcome the local priest to their house for a blessing, an Irish tradition that dates back hundreds of years.

Easter in Ireland is not just one day of celebration. Instead, Easter spans a long weekend from Friday to Monday. We’ve explored the traditions and customs of each day of Easter in Ireland below:

Good Friday – The Beginning of Easter in Ireland

Good Friday is a solemn and significant day in the Christian calendar, observed as the day of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and death. It falls on the Friday before Easter Sunday and is part of Holy Week, the period leading up to Easter.

Many Catholics and other Christians attend church services that focus on Jesus’ passion and death. These services often include readings from the biblical accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion, prayers, hymns, and reflections on the meaning of his sacrifice.

Celebrating Easter in Ireland: A Great Spring Getaway
Easter egg hunts are a popular activity during the holiday.

One distinctive feature of Good Friday during Easter in Ireland is the tradition of abstaining from meat and fasting. Many Catholics abstain from eating meat on Good Friday as a sign of penance and solidarity with Jesus’ suffering.

In addition to attending church services, some communities in Ireland participate in outdoor processions or reenactments of Jesus’ journey to the cross. These events may include carrying a cross through the streets, stations of the cross, or other devotional practices.

Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday, also known as Easter Eve, is the day that falls between Good Friday and Easter Sunday in the Christian calendar. It commemorates the day that Jesus Christ’s body lay in the tomb after his crucifixion, awaiting his resurrection.

During Easter in Ireland, many Catholics and other Christians attend church services on Holy Saturday. The Easter Vigil is the most significant celebration of the Christian year and typically takes place after sundown on Holy Saturday. It begins with the blessing of the Easter fire, symbolizing the light of Christ shining in the darkness, and the lighting of the Paschal candle, which represents the risen Christ.

In addition to attending church services, some communities in Ireland may also participate in other Easter traditions on Holy Saturday. This may include decorating Easter eggs, preparing special meals or treats, or spending time with family and loved ones anticipating Easter Sunday.

Celebrating Easter in Ireland: A Great Spring Getaway
Easter mass is one of the most essential parts of Easter in Ireland.

Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday is the most important and joyous day in the Christian calendar. It celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. It marks the culmination of Holy Week and signifies the victory of life over death and the fulfilment of God’s promise of salvation.

Easter in Ireland is celebrated with various traditions and customs that reflect the day’s significance. Many Catholics and other Christians attend special church services on Easter morning, where they rejoice in the resurrection of Jesus Christ through prayer, hymns, and readings from the Bible.

One of the most iconic symbols of Easter in Ireland is the Easter egg, which represents new life and rebirth. Children often participate in Easter egg hunts, searching for hidden eggs decorated or filled with candy or treats.

Another beloved tradition during Easter in Ireland is the Easter Sunday meal, which typically includes delicious food shared with family and friends. Roast lamb is a popular dish, symbolizing the sacrificial lamb of God, while other traditional foods such as hot cross buns and simnel cake may also be enjoyed.

Easter Monday

Easter Monday, the day following Easter Sunday, holds significance in many cultures and is celebrated in various ways, including in Ireland. It is a public holiday in Ireland, allowing people to extend the festivities of Easter weekend and spend time with family and friends.

Celebrating Easter in Ireland: A Great Spring Getaway
Easter corresponds with the beginning of Spring.

In Ireland, Easter Monday is often seen as a continuation of the Easter celebrations, albeit with a more relaxed and leisurely atmosphere. Many people use this day to enjoy outdoor activities and outings, taking advantage of the typically improved weather during the spring season.

Sporting events also play a significant role in traditions during Easter in Ireland. Historically, it was common for communities to organize traditional Gaelic games, such as hurling or Gaelic football matches, as part of the Easter Monday festivities.

The Monday after Easter in Ireland may also feature various cultural and community events, such as music festivals, art exhibitions, or historical reenactments. These events allow people to engage with local communities and celebrate Irish heritage and culture.

Traditional Food of Easter in Ireland

  1. Roast Lamb: Roast lamb is a common centrepiece for Easter Sunday meals. It symbolizes the sacrificial lamb and represents new life and rebirth.
  2. Hot Cross Buns: Sweet, spiced buns marked with a cross on top, representing the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, are enjoyed throughout Easter in Ireland.
  3. Simnel Cake: A rich fruitcake topped with marzipan, traditionally decorated with 11 marzipan balls to symbolize Jesus’ apostles (excluding Judas), is a popular dessert during Easter in Ireland.
  4. Easter Eggs: Chocolate eggs, often filled with candy or treats, symbolise Easter in Ireland. They are exchanged as gifts or used in children’s Easter egg hunts.
  5. Colcannon: A traditional Irish dish made from mashed potatoes, cabbage or kale, butter, and sometimes scallions or leeks. It is commonly served as a side dish during Easter dinner in Ireland.
  6. Irish Soda Bread: A classic bread made with flour, baking soda, buttermilk, and salt. It is often served sliced and spread with butter alongside meals during Easter in Ireland.
  7. Spring Vegetables: Fresh vegetables such as carrots, peas, and asparagus are commonly included in Easter meals, reflecting the arrival of springtime abundance.
  8. Roast Ham: In addition to lamb, a roast ham may also be served as a main dish for Easter Sunday dinners in Ireland.
Celebrating Easter in Ireland: A Great Spring Getaway
Hot cross buns are a popular food during Easter in Ireland.

Activities and Events During Easter in Ireland

During Easter in Ireland, a wide range of activities and events cater to people of all ages and interests. All of the schools in Ireland will be out for the Easter break, so many families will be heading out for local events and activities.

To find out more about the different Easter events taking place in Dublin this year, click here. If you’re looking for Easter activities in Belfast and across Northern Ireland, click here.

Easter Egg Hunts

Easter egg hunts are a cherished tradition, with families gathering in parks, gardens, and even community centres to search for hidden eggs filled with candy or treats. These hunts foster a sense of excitement and adventure, bringing joy to children as they explore their surroundings in search of colourful Easter treasures.

Surf Camp in Portrush

If you’re looking for something fun and different to do this Easter in Ireland with your children, head to Portrush for a surfing camp suitable for children five to sixteen years old. The Easter Surf Camps provide an exhilarating opportunity for adventure seekers to hit the waves and learn the art of surfing.

These camps offer expert instruction, top-of-the-line equipment, and plenty of fun in the sun. Whether you’re a seasoned surfer or a beginner looking to catch your first wave, the Easter Surf Camps offer an unforgettable experience on the stunning shores of Portrush.

Celebrating Easter in Ireland: A Great Spring Getaway
Many children’s activities are held during Easter in Ireland.

Easter Eggspress Stream Train, Belfast

In Belfast, the Easter Eggspress Steam Train offers a unique and nostalgic experience for visitors. This special train ride takes passengers on a scenic journey through the countryside, complete with Easter-themed decorations and onboard entertainment.

Families can hop aboard the Easter Eggspress for a memorable adventure filled with fun and laughter. There will be a surprise visit from the Easter Bunny, and each child will receive an Easter egg. Tickets for the Easter Eggspress are £15 each and include refreshments onboard.

Easter Petting Zoo, Belfast

For animal lovers, the Easter Petting Zoo in Belfast provides an opportunity to get up close and personal with a variety of adorable creatures. From fluffy bunnies to friendly lambs, this interactive petting zoo allows visitors to interact with and learn about different animals in a safe and supervised environment.

For a fun day out during Easter in Ireland, the petting zoo at the Mac Theatre in Belfast is a perfect activity for families looking to create lasting memories during the Easter holiday. At only £2 per person, it is a fun experience that won’t break the bank!

Gin Festival, Belfast

For those with a taste for something different, the Gin Festival in Belfast offers a sophisticated and flavorful experience. The festival is held on Holy Saturday at the Belfast Bar Doyen and costs £20. There are typically 2 tasting sessions held: one at 2 pm and one at 7 pm.

This annual event showcases a wide selection of artisanal gins from local and international distilleries, along with live music, gourmet food stalls, and expert-led tasting sessions. There will also be Gin cocktails, Gin creators, Live music, and small tasting plates. It’s a fantastic way to celebrate Easter with friends while indulging in the finer things in life.

The EPIC Museum in Dublin hosts an Easter Workshop.

An Easter Craft Workshop, EPIC Museum, Dublin

In Dublin, the EPIC Museum hosts an Easter Craft Workshop where visitors can unleash their creativity and make their own unique Easter-themed crafts. From decorating eggs to crafting colourful bonnets and baskets, this hands-on workshop offers a fun and educational experience for children and adults alike.

Visiting the Irish Emigration Museum during Easter in Ireland is a great way to get into the holiday spirit while learning about Irish culture and heritage at one of Dublin’s premier cultural attractions. The workshop is inspired by the Irish storytelling culture and the Easter tradition of displaying colourful eggs around the house.

Celebrating Easter in Ireland: A Great Spring Getaway
Easter is an important holiday in the Christian religion.

Spending Easter in Ireland is a Great Springtime Getaway

Easter in Ireland is a great time to visit the Emerald Isle. The holiday coincides with the beginning of Spring and the arrival of warmer, sunnier weather, perfect for exploring tourist destinations. Additionally, the unique Easter activities and traditions will plunge tourists into Irish history and culture.

Whether you’re interested in attending an Easter mass in Ireland, tasting gins from around the world, or hopping into the Easter Eggspress with your children, Easter in Ireland is a fantastic time of year. What are your favourite Easter traditions? Tell us in the comments below!

If you enjoyed this article, check out some of our other great travel blogs:

Discover the Most Unique Places to Stay in Ireland| Art Galleries in Belfast: A Local’s Guide to Must-See Attractions| Fun Things to Do in Northern Ireland| The Ultimate Guide to Things to Do in Belfast| Famous Landmarks in Ireland|

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