The meaning and importance of Lent has changed immensely since I was a child. In those days ,and I mean in the 1970’s not the 1900’s, Lent was strictly adhered to. As we were young and we hadn’t formed the bad habits of our later lives we were all ‘made’ give up sweets, biscuits and cake. Now it wasn’t all that hard because we never really had loads anyway ( before you can here violins playing sad tunes everybody was in the same boat so it was the norm). We did have treats and there was nearly always an apple tart or other baked dessert on a Sunday. But the thought of 40 days of no treats of any kind filled every kid with dread. The big plus before Lent was Shrove Tuesday aka Pancake Tuesday aka Jif Lemon Day! The only topping ever put on pancakes was sugar and lemon juice. When you see what people put on them now it’s mindboggling. All pancakes were homemade. This was before Fergal Quinn came up with the brainwave of making thousands of pancakes so the poor hard working mothers didn’t have to go through the time consuming process. Because of the time it took to individually make pancakes for five people it was also the one and only day out of 365 that pancakes were ever made in our house. We each got one or a maximum of two but never anymore. I remember the following day in school kids used to boast about eating 5,10,12,15….. but always reckoned they had one or two the same as everybody else! Ash Wednesday was a Black Fast day and after Mass at school and getting smudged with ashes (that I always suspected rightly or wrongly came from the ashtrays’ in the staffroom!) it was fish for dinner. The problem in our house was that my Mam who was and still is an absolutely brilliant cook hated cooking fish. So while other dinners were feasts any fish dinners although lovely were fairly basic (where I got my taste for eating everything in the sea apart from a ship God knows!) So Lent dragged on for 40 days and nights with the sometimes futile attempt by our Dad to get us to say the Rosary on a Sunday night. The main thing that kept us going was the reward at the end of it all of a then  single Easter Egg (but felt like having the key to Willy Wonkas’ chocolate factory) Then came Good Friday another Black Fast day and fish for all. In fact the Catholic Church had such a vice grip on Ireland at the time you would not for a second even let yourself think about eating meat for fear of causing a ‘Mortaler’ or Mortal Sin, a fate worse than death itself! I can still see the hard faced Brothers who beat this superstitious mumbo jumbo into petrified little kids. Ironic that so many of these ‘Christian’ Brothers were the most cold calculating evil bastards that ever lived! Now not all of them were evil, there certainly were some very good honest decent men but you have to try hard to remember their names. But that’s another story and it has been told over and over again. Finally Lent came to an end and after Mass on Easter Sunday we could have a piece of Easter Egg, not a full one or even a half but a ‘piece’  which we savoured and tasted sweet, creamy, luxurious…….. So what to give up this year, strangely enough I have not formed too many bad habits……



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