Lent and Easter in Co. Mayo

The day before Ash Wednesday is called “Pancake Day” or “Pancake Tuesday” and celebrates the last day of Shrove. In county Mayo as well as in Uk, Australia, Canada and Us, every member of the household gathers and cooks lots of pancakes. Everyone is involved in making, turning, smearing with little butter, sprinkling of sugar and squeezing with lemon juice. The following day Lent starts and lasts for forty days.

In the past on “Pus Sunday” or in Irish “Domhnach a Phus”, the first Sunday after Pancake Day, people used to stroke the back of the marriageable boys and girls with chalk going into or coming out of Church.

People obeyed strict church regulations regarding the Lenten fast. People from 21 and 60 years old could have only one full meal and two light snacks a day; no meat was allowed on Wednesday or Friday. Men gave up alcohol and cigarettes, while women and children gave up sugar in their tea and sweets. Usually breakfast as well as supper consisted of unbuttered bread, or porridge and black tea. The main meal was potatoes seasoned with onions. On the coast people could eat shellfish or seaweed. Holy Week was a week of rigid austerities and people thought about the passion of Christ.

All strict regulations ended on Holy Saturday and a general good feeling arose. On Easter morning people got up early and made their way to a hill top to see the sun dance, they believed the rising sun would have danced with joy because of the Resurrection of the Saviour on that morning. Also, on that morning in most homes people used to eat many eggs, sometimes they did a sort of competition, the winner was the one who ate the greatest number of eggs.

After mid-day Mass in many villages men in their best suits and women in their new Easter outfits used to hold the “Easter Parade”. The smartest ladies sported their gorgeous Easter Bonnet complete with frills and feathers. This was a colourful and lively event through the streets of the village.