ONCE upon a time, Easter in Ireland was all about church vigils, stations of the cross and Lenten sacrifices. Nowadays, most kids seem to know more about the Easter bunny than the resurrection, and the focus has shifted from religious celebrations to chocolate-based activities.
THE church activities are still going on in every parish across the land, but there are now plenty of fun, family-oriented events pitched squarely at the bunny brigade. Between school and bank holidays, Easter is a favourite time to head off with the kids and Ireland's customer-hungry hoteliers are keen to attract families, so there's no shortage of attractive breaks around.
Almost every hotel worth its salt is running an Easter egg hunt on April 8, but the most imaginative break comes from The Malton in Killarney, which has hours of events organised.
An egg and spoon race, musical chairs with the Easter bunny, mini fudge egg-making class with the head chef, Easter crafts sessions, family movies (such as Hop!), an egg hunt plus family cook-off are some of the treats on offer. Two nights' B&B and one dinner costs €70 per child and €165 per adult. Book at www.themalton.com.
For slightly older families the Cocoa and Chanel package at Galway's hip Twelve Hotel includes chocolate pizza making, hot chocolate and a family egg hunt. On departure mum receives a Chanel treat, which we can't argue with! The cost is €490 for two adults and two children, comprising two nights in a family suite and one dinner. Book at www.thetwelvehotel.ie.
Lots of historic properties are running traditional family egg hunts on Easter Sunday, from Mayo's Westport House to Belvedere House in Westmeath, Fota House in Cork to Loughcrew Gardens in Meath. Farmleigh House in the Phoenix Park has a wonderful free itinerary running over the weekend, with story telling, a quiz, music, magic show and face painting.
Farms teem with life at this time of year and young kids will love the bunny and chick themes. As well as their annual egg hunt Newbridge House, Gardens and Farm in Kildare will be welcoming chicks and newborn farmyard additions.
Take the kids to Newgrange Farm in Meath and they'll be able to hold and feed the animals, play games, enter competitions and go on an egg hunt around the farm. Red Mountain Open Farm in Meath, Glendeer Farm in Westmeath and Glenroe Farm in Wicklow are all running seasonal events, while Causey Farm in Kells is expecting 350 lambs around Easter. Alongside sheepdog demonstrations and meeting Little Bo Peep you're invited to visit the lambing sheds, maybe in time to see a new lamb being born.
Alice in Wonderland seems especially popular at this time of year. From now until Easter Sunday, The Conrad Hotel in Dublin is offering Alice in Wonderland afternoon tea. On Easter Sunday you'll be greeted by The Mad Hatter upon arrival and children will be able to enjoy a special afternoon tea party, with their own eating and play area; €10 per child, and €21 per adult, with real Alices receiving complimentary afternoon tea for two on Easter Sunday (proof of identity necessary).
Deerpark in Mount Merrion is also hosting a Mad Hatter's tea party on Easter Sunday from 1pm to 5pm complete with tea-cup ride, giant chess, croquet, a hat walk, balloons, Easter trail and a host of surprises on picnic tables under a tree! Curiouser and curiouser...
See mykidstime.ie and www.discoverireland.ie/easter