Saturday 25 November 2017

No drinking, no dancing, no gambling, no television, no shopping... Easter in Catholic Ireland

Cheers: rugby fans enjoy a pint
Cheers: rugby fans enjoy a pint
Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid
The Easter lily badge
The Showband era
Easter Rising: 50th anniversary

John Meagher, Deirdre Reynolds and Salvador Ryan

For the first 50 years of indepedence, Easter in Ireland – through Holy Week to the weekend – was characterised by solemn music on the radio, dull and reverential television programming and shut cinemas. Alcohol sales may still be prohibited on Good Friday, but as this post-independence timeline shows, there have been considerable changes in how the most significant days in the Catholic calendar have been observed.

1926

The Easter lily badge (right) is introduced by the women's paramilitary organisation Cumann na mBan and worn to commemorate those who died in the 1916 Rising. It is sold outside Catholic churches on Easter Sunday for years, despite occasional criticism.

1927

The Intoxicating Liquor Act makes it illegal for publicans to serve alcohol on Good Friday, Christmas Day and St Patrick's Day. The latter has been exempted since 1960, but Ireland remains the only country to prohibit the sale of alcohol on Good Friday.

1931

The Gambling Act forces bookmakers to close their premises on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. This law still applies today, although the industry points out the prevalence of online and telephone betting makes a mockery of such a ruling.

1935

Fianna Fáil, in an attempt to turn the flock away from the Easter lily badge and its association with the IRA, introduce an Easter Torch broach to be sold outside churches on Easter Sunday. It is not a success.

1938

The Shops (Hours of Trading) Act ensures that Sundays – as well as the important days of Easter – sees retail cease, or become greatly restricted, for much of the 20th Century. The law becomes largely irrelevant by the end of the 1990s, with retailers setting their own opening hours, although some still choose to close by 3pm on Good Friday – the traditional time chosen to mark the crucifixion. Banks remain closed on Good Friday.

1957

Year zero for the Showband era, which would be a feature of Irish life until the mid-1970s. The bands were not allowed play during the 40 days of Lent and their "comeback" shows on Easter Sunday would be huge events for entertainment-starved locals.

1959

The Catholic Church's Lenten Regulations dictate that Catholics aged between 21 and 60 are bound by the laws of fast and abstinence. Fasting means eating just one meal a day, with an optional light morning and evening snack for the weak-willed. Abstinence means no meat. Those between the ages of seven and 21 are bound only by the law of abstinence.

1965

The Second Vatican Council recommends that fast and abstinence be slashed from the whole of Lent to just two days – Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

1966

Easter Week takes on a distinctly political hue thanks to the lavish and jingoistic celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1916 rising. The all-powerful Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid (right), officiates at the ceremony to mark the opening of the Garden of Remembrance.

2008

Judge Mary Fahy at Galway District Court refuses to prosecute nine restaurants for serving wine to their customers on Good Friday. She says the very idea of pursuing these restaurants is "ludicrous".

2010

With Munster and Leinster playing at Thomond Park, Limerick, on Good Friday, pubs in the vicinity are granted a special licence to open. Judge Tom O'Donnell said he was making the ruling for health and safety reasons. Some Limerick entrepreneurs had T-shirts printed bearing the legend 'Officially Bigger than the Catholic Church: Munster Rugby'. In the Seanad, Eoghan Harris said the decision to play the match on Good Friday was "odd and wrong" in a land "impregnated with Christian symbolism".

2012

RTÉ breaks with more than 60 years of tradition and broadcasts the Angelus on Good Friday. It had long been Catholic custom not to ring bells that day.

2014

Irish punters can gamble on cross-channel racing for the first time ever as Good Friday race meetings take place in Lingfield Park and Musselburgh.

JOHN MEAGHER

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