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Easter Monday Mirth & Merriment at the Market
by Bridget Haggerty

Long ago, the day after Easter was one that Irish people eagerly looked forward to. Not only was it a favorite day for buying and selling livestock and merchandise at fairs and markets, it was also a time for enjoying sports, games, sideshows, dancing, eating, drinking, gambling, and perhaps, even some fisticuffs!

For many years, Easter Monday was also a holy day of obligation in the Roman Catholic Church. That meant one had to go to Mass and abstain from work. All well and good, except that the riotous behavior which often followed during the day and well into the evening didn’t sit well with the clergy. in 1828, the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, Dr. John Doyle, prevailed upon other bishops to petition the Pope to make Easter Monday an ordinary working day. The intention was to disassociate the Church from what was perceived as unseemly fun at the fair! The Pope granted the petition, so that from 1829, Easter Monday was no longer a holy day.

If the clergy had hoped that by making it an ordinary working day, the Irish would simply go back to their jobs, they were very much mistaken. For a long time, people kept what they called ‘the old holiday’ and honored the tradition of taking the time off to enjoy themselves.

From tugs of war to hurling matches and card games to reels and jigs, Easter Monday was always filled with fun and festivities. Eventually, however, the fairs began losing their joyful character and evolved into just another day of trade. Which is why some Easter customs that used to take place on this day either died out or were transferred to Sunday— the children’s egg feast, for example. In Co. Wexford, it had always taken place on Easter Monday.

Would that dear old Ireland could go back to the Easter Mondays of long ago. Today, while it’s a national holiday, it’s expected that there will be huge traffic jams and gridlock as thousands head home to the cities after a long weekend away. No doubt, there’ll be many a frustrated driver who’d give anything to be at an old-fashioned country fair instead.

Image Credit: The Ould Irish Jig/David Radcliffe - Pinterest

Postcard Inscription:
"The OULD IRISH JIG"
"Then a fig for the new fashioned waltzes
Imported from Spain and from France,
And a fig for the thing called a polka,
Our own Irish jig we will dance."
Lawrence Publisher, Dublin, Ireland. Printed in Saxony. Postmarked 1904.

 

Thu, Dec 7, 2017

Holly and Ivy hanging up and
something wet in every cup*

Not so long ago, Irish Christmas decorations were much simpler than they are now. The children gathered holly and ivy for adorning, windows, doorways, mantles and pictures, and the father would carve out a turnip in which would be placed a large red candle. This would go in the window to light the way for the Holy Family on Christmas Eve. Only in relatively recent times did an Irish family have a Nativity scene and a decorated tree in the house. As for Mistletoe, it's quite rare in ireland and is generally associated with ancient Celtic and Druidic fertility celebrations; this is most likely where the custom of kissing under the mistletoe comes from.
*Old Irish Christmas toast
Image: Pashley Manor Gardens.



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