It’s Easter Holy Week in Ireland, and being immersed among a deeper see of Catholics than almost anywhere besides Vatican City, i’m intrigued at the faith and traditions that move this country and make it rich and sincere. The place is full of beautiful sites, ancient history, interesting people and daily cultrual conundrums of curiosity .
One such conundrum is the fact you’ll find in this country of green damp hills and endless flowing Guinness, the whole place is “dry” on Good Friday! Since the 1927 Intoxicating Liquor Act no drink of intoxicating kind could be purchased on Good Friday, Christmas Day, & St. Patricks Day ( Paddy’s Day was repealed in 1960 to accommodate tourists visiting
for the national feast day). Oh the shock and horror to have been a tourist flying into Dublin today, anxious to find the nearest pub and sip your first pint of stout from the mother-land, only to find shuttered doors.
Attending mass is focal point of many here this week: with Maundy Thursday reflection of the last supper and Jesus washing the feet of disciples, no-meat Good Friday -the commemoration of Jesus’ passion and death, and Easter Sunday’s celebration of resurrection. But here in Slane Ireland the often over looked and solemn Holy Saturday is celebrated with a bonfire service on the Hill of Slane and it’s flame being paraded down a
mile to St. Patrick’s Catholic Church where the dark and somber sanctuary is lit with a symbolic flame of hope to mark Easter’s arrival. The origins of this celebration stem from the story of the ancient Hill of Slane where in 432ad St. Patrick lit his first Pascal Fire on Easter eve to signal to the High King, King Laoghaire (pronounced Leary) who was lighting his own sacred fire on the Hill of Tara, that christianity had arrived. A defining moment not only for the ancient ways and religion in Ireland but for St. Patrick and his legacy. From that historic moment the community of Slane as a whole embraced it’s heritage with full gusto the past few years and presenting an evening of celebration on Easter night The Flame of Slane, with a phenomenal outdoor theatrical production of song, poetry, fire, lights, and historical
reenactments spanning 3000 years and culminating with St. Patrick lighting his pascal fire, ending with a spectacular fireworks extravaganza. It was a moving evening last year on that ancient hill, the community working so hard and near a thousand in attendance to celebrate.
Im not an overly religious sort, but do attend church on occasion and have been known to wander into a church to light a candle and reflect a bit while on this journey. The historical aspect of faith is more intriguing to me than the faith itself, and i must admit that i take my religion as i do eating lamb – in small doses and when only really craving it. On this holiest of all Holy Weeks, the lamb of god is literally that!
Last year I posted on a local Irish lamb farmer but felt this weekend was ideal to again share a little more lamb with my readers. More than likely lamb became the hot menu item for the spring holy observance due to it being lambing season, the availability and freshness made it the most practical choice for the plate. Lamb has a distinctive flavor that lingers beautifully if done right, and sadly many home kitchens never welcome in this affordable (in Ireland but not so much in the States unfortunately) and healthy red meat. An animal raised almost entirely grass-fed, the health benefits are endless providing a great source of natural omega 3s, vitamin A & E, and cancer fighting CLA’s (conjugated lineolic acid).
One of my most favorite meals yet was during my visit to the Gloustershire hills of England where one snowy winter Sunday, we prepared a lamb knuckle in a woodfire clay oven with whole onions, potatoes and cabbage. The lamb shank or knuckle is the rear leg and though a very lean cut can prove a bit tough if rushed in the cooking. Place the meat in a reasonable depth pan, mark small slits in the meat, stuff with olive oil drenched fresh garlic and rosemary and slow roast, basting with it’s own juices throughout. Simply delicious!!
Whatever your religious or palate beliefs this Spring holiday weekend, treat it as a time to reflect. And of course don’t forget to enjoy that candy the Easter Bunny leaves behind in moderation!