“On Easter Sunday, the people get up early to see the sun dancing”
Easter is one of the most important feasts in the Christian ecclesiastical year. The Schools’ Folklore Collection records many Easter customs and traditions and the majority involve the cooking and sharing of eggs. The fire for boiling the water was said to represent the fire lit by St. Patrick at Slane, while the eggs represented the Resurrection and new life.
Like most celebrations, families and communities joined together to eat and enjoy themselves. As part of the Easter tradition in Drumshanbo, Co. Leitrim, children would compete to see who could eat the most eggs. The boys and girls from each townland used to gather together and hold a picnic.
Each child brought as many eggs as he could and a little wooden spoon. Then a big fire was lighted and the eggs were boiled they eat the eggs with the wooden spoons while they all sat round the fire.
In Drung, Co. Donegal the children added a furze blossom to the water of a boiling egg which gave it a radiant yellow colour. In Phibsborough, Co. Dublin it was the custom for children to build an “Easter House”, usually on a hill at the site of a rath or fort. A fire was made in the centre of a ring of stones and tea made. The eggs for the Easter picnic were boiled there. At Cloongee, Co. Mayo boys would get up early to search for the nests of wild ducks. Children visiting neighbours would be given presents of eggs and a big meal would be had.
The tradition of rising early for Easter Mass is still common, so that parishioners could see the rising sun. Co. Leitrim seems to the place for the best craic on Easter Sunday evening though:
All the lads and lassies, pipers, fiddlers and flute players used to gather together in an open field. A great big cake was baked and this cake was placed on top of a churndash which was sunk in the field. Round this cake the young people danced and sung and late in the evening the best boy and girl dancer got the cake and their job was to cut it up and divide it among the others. Then they boiled eggs and all sat down and had a great feed.