Shine a light of hope in Donegal this Easter
Whether you are of Christian faith or not, Easter is one of the biggest festivals of the year.
The origin of the name and many of the traditions significantly pre-date Christianity. The name goes back to the pre-Christian goddess Eostre who was very much associated with springtime. Her feast is thought to have been celebrated around the vernal equinox and her symbol was a hare which is most active and visible in spring, hence the Easter Bunny.
Exchanging or gifting eggs also goes back a long way and is still common in many cultures and religions around the world today.
As a child, I had no sense of a difference between the Christian aspect of Easter and the pre-christian elements. My mother was a deeply religious woman but she carried on a lovely tradition from her family. It involved winding lots of different coloured wool around eggs and then boiling them over a fire outside. When the eggs were cooked and cooled down, we would take off the wool. It always felt as if there was a touch of magic to the wonderful colours and patterns which appeared on the eggshells while they cooked.
Chocolate Easter Eggs were a massive treat too, of course. I think it's a bit of a shame that sweets are seldom inside the egg itself anymore, as opening up the egg and finding the treats inside was a huge part of the excitement.
While all of this was a lot of fun, Easter was - and still is for many people - very much about Church services. From Palm Sunday through to Easter Sunday, these are by far the most ceremonious and dramatic services of the year. They are also the services where the congregation most actively participates, from the reading of the Passion of Christ, washing of feet, the stations of the Cross, and celebrating the light of the paschal candle.
There will no doubt still be many Easter eggs eaten all around Donegal, and clergy are embracing modern technology to involve people in church services. But it is nonetheless a strange Easter, tinged with anxiety and sadness as Covid-19 is still dominating our lives.
Whatever our beliefs, we need to channel the optimism of the Easter festival, shine a light with so many others around the country this evening, and celebrate the hope that it brings.
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