St Johnston and Carrigans Donegal



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Lent in Days Gone By

Lent held great fascination for the Irish because of the legends of Jesus' forty day fast and of how St Patrick fasted for the same length of time on Croagh Patrick.  It was a sombre time.  It was a time to be serious.  The people that so loved music and dance and the tot of whiskey and the pipe abandoned it all on Ash Wednesday until after Easter.  Perhaps they made up for it then!  Anybody that wanted to wed had to wait until Lent was over.

In days gone by, people only took one full meal and two snacks a day during Lent.  We can't imagine how difficult this was for them as they engaged in strenuous physical labour and were not eating enough to keep up their strength.  The obligation to fast was imposed on all by the Church except on children and those who were old or sick.  Meat was not allowed.  The housewives and maids were not permitted to use animal fat in cooking.  They were however permitted to eat fish.  Locally for an area along the River Foyle this was a bit of a reprieve!

Bread was made with sour milk and baking soda.  But as milk was animal produce it was banned.  Tea was taken black. 

If one intended to go to Holy Communion, one had to fast from midnight before.  For those who were doing their Easter Duty - that is taking their communion near the end of Lent, they had to trek to the chapel without even their humble breakfast snack of potatoes or porridge.

They made such sacrifices.  And for the worst off, every day in the year was Lent.  Potatoes were often the only food they had.

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