Ireland’s food culture is closely associated religious tradition. One of the greatest celebrations on the Church’s calendar is the Easter Triduum. This season is proceeded by Lent which, for believers, is a time of fast and abstinence. Quality ingredients such as eggs and butter would be used up on Shrove (Pancake) Tuesday to avoid any temptation during the forty days of Lent.
Roast lamb is one of the most traditional meals for people to enjoy on Easter Sunday, heralding the end of the Lenten season.
Halloween was also revered as the end of a season. Popular folklore would suggest that all crops and fruit should have been harvested before this time and that all animals should be brought into their winter housing, with some being slaughtered and stored for the coming winter.
At Halloween, the traditional Barmbrack is often baked and several items may be hidden in the centre of it. Each item symbolises a certain occurrence, which would befall those who received it in their slice. For example, to find a ring in your slice of Barmbrack was a sign that you would marry within a year, while to find a coin was an auspicious sign of your future fortune.
Christmas is also synonymous with cooking and has a great sense of feast and family about it. Many of Ireland’s saints, who have roots in pagan culture, are also linked with a variety of foodstuffs. For example, St. Brigid, who is linked the Celtic goddess Dana, is associated with milk and butter making.
In the run up to Christmas, kitchens around the country become the production spaces to vast amounts of cakes, puddings and mincemeats - recipes that have been passed on from generation to generation.
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