Friday 21 November 2014

All thought of moderation goes out window when it comes to Easter eggs and drink

Published 14/04/2014 | 02:30

Good Friday is less about Christ and more about suffering for drinkers.
Good Friday is less about Christ and more about suffering for drinkers.

There are only five more fasting days to Easter. Then on Easter Sunday we can binge away on Christ's resurrection day. Fair play to us, all the same, but we are the best Catholics in the world for religious binging.

I'm not sure if the church banned sex during Lent. They closed the dance halls, so the chances are that if the dancing was banned, it's highly unlikely the sex was allowed.

Back in the days when notice was taken of mad priests, the belting headboards of Ireland must have caused structural damage to the gable ends of houses on Easter Sunday morning. Times have changed and now we abstain for a good many other reasons.

The lady of the house searched a kitchen press for the book I lent her. Inside was a hot water bottle, two packets of old jelly, a colander, a tangle of mobile phone-chargers, a fishing reel and a massive clutch of dozens of Easter eggs. Most of us buy loads of Easter eggs for our kids, nephews and nieces. It's as if you'd be a bad uncle or dad if you didn't arrive in on Easter morning with a dozen eggs.

The strange thing is that most houses will have a roast of lamb in the oven. But everyone is too sick or full to eat the Easter feast after gorging on Easter eggs.

The eggs ritual came from the days when eggs were banned for Lent when a zealot decided eggs were meat. Then some clever confectioner came up with the bright idea of making chocolate eggs. If you brought in a carton of free-range eggs to a kid nowadays for Easter Sunday, the yokes would soon be running down the walls.

There are millions of adults who go off sweets for Lent. Mostly it's about dropping a dress size or bringing the belt in a notch so that the end flaps like a greyhound's tongue after a hard gallop. The fasting has nothing at all to do with abstinence being good for the soul.

There was even a time when RTE only showed 'The Card' on Good Friday. 'The Card' was also known as the 'Break Down Card' and it was a series of square boxes coloured in different shades of black and white. There was a relaxation of the strict code of being miserable and the national station had sad music on all day. The RTE bosses were having a great old time of it in Dublin watching pagan soccer on the BBC and UTV while the highlight of our day in the land of the one channel was 'Urbi et Orgi'. Then there was the trip to the church for the Good Friday rituals and the kissing of the cross. As a kid I used to wonder why it was we all had to be so miserable when Christ was actually going to heaven and wouldn't have to watch 'The Card' all day.

If you were an altar boy, as I was until I lost my vocation at the age of nine, there was the marathon Mass. It was not uncommon for half-starved, exhausted and dehydrated altar boys to faint or vomit. The last strict Catholic Lenten rule is that we have to abstain from eating meat on Good Friday. It is still well observed. Holy Thursday is by some way the busiest day of the year for the fish shops but I'm not so sure if this has anything to do with some sort of acknowledgement of the religious significance of Easter but more to do with the notion that if we had a big fry then bad luck would befall us.

The rebellious '60s hit Ireland some time around 1985 and our idea of protest was for a gang of us to meet up on Good Friday for a 27-ounce steak and a rake of drink. It became known as The Mortal Sin Party. None of us had any more bad luck than anyone else other than the usual calamities that occur, such as going broke, death and illness, but nothing worse than that.

It took years and years of hard sell by the fish marketing board BIM to get Irish people to like fish, such was the Lenten connection with misery and compulsion. There's a story from Kevin Danaher's book, 'A Year in Ireland', about the butchers' boys of Drogheda, who used to beat the living daylights out of herrings on Easter Saturday. It was their way of celebrating the end of six weeks without meat. In fairness to the butchers' boys of Drogheda, the herrings were well dead before they were beaten up.

For the devoted drinkers, Good Friday is the longest day of suffering. The word gaspin' is used more often than any other, even if you include the f word, as in 'I'm gaspin' for a drink'.

Then the goms will go out on Easter Sunday and drink 13 or 14 pints 'because they are entitled to it', and terrorise poor publicans, and their own families. Maybe the solution is to binge all year round.

Moderation is a more sensible option as is the taking of a little time out by believers and non-believers, to reflect and abstain. The first pint is much the sweeter if you've been off it for a few days. It's a type of foreplay for drinking.

We would respectfully suggest the subject for this last Lenten reflection is that maybe we too should make sacrifices, so that others might live a better life. Now where did I hear that before?

Irish Independent

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