Nostalgia: A look back at Lent in Cork over the years

Nostalgia: A look back at Lent in Cork over the years
Pictured in 2000: Giving up sweets for Lent are St Flannan's College pupils, Connell and Leon Vaughan, and Donnacha Keohane. Picture: Kieran Clancy.

When Lent began in late February, no one could have anticipated that we would be giving up quite as much as we have. 

"So, what did everyone else give up for Lent?" one man tweeted. "Apparently, I gave up spending time with friends and family, going to bars and restaurants, and basically anything that requires me to leave the house. Stay safe."

Indeed over the course of the last few weeks, people have done their best to observe Lent, the period from Ash Wednesday, February 26, to Holy Thursday, April 09, under the additional pressure of a global pandemic. 

For some, Lent is a deeply religious occasion and a time of sacrifice, personal growth and progress. 

For others, it’s simply an opportunity to challenge yourself to give up a particular vice for 40 days. 

The token abstention from things like chocolate, alcohol and coffee has been even more of a challenge, given that we’ve been staying at home for the last number of weeks. 

Students from Coláiste na Toirbhirte Secondary School, Bandon with goats they bought to be sent to the third world with monies collected from Lenten activities.  
Students from Coláiste na Toirbhirte Secondary School, Bandon with goats they bought to be sent to the third world with monies collected from Lenten activities.  

Throughout the decades, Lent has changed a lot. Traditionally in Ireland, every Friday was a fast day and those observing lent would eschew meat and eggs. But it was not all sacrifice. 

In the 1950s, Bishop of Cork and Ross Cornelius Lucey sanctioned a biscuit or two with a cup of tea. 

Wily Corkonians began baking enormous biscuits which became known locally as ‘Connie dodgers’. 

 Bishop of Cork Cornelius Lucey at UCC in 1954 pictured with President of UCC, Dr Alfred O'Rahilly (left) and with Canon Thomas Duggan.
Bishop of Cork Cornelius Lucey at UCC in 1954 pictured with President of UCC, Dr Alfred O'Rahilly (left) and with Canon Thomas Duggan.

Ahead of Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, comes the highly anticipated Shrove Tuesday – the last big splurge before the Lenten sacrifice begins. 

Pancake Tuesday, as it’s now widely regarded as, began as an opportunity for people to use up all the rich foods in their households before the stringent rules of Lent came into effect. 

The 40 days of Lent leads up to the most important date in the Church’s Calendar, Easter Sunday. 

Deirdre Anthony (left) and Noelle Burke leaders with Weight Watchers tossing pancakes as part of the celebrations to mark the official opening of the Weight Watchers Centre at 104 North Main Street, Cork. Picture Denis Minihane.
Deirdre Anthony (left) and Noelle Burke leaders with Weight Watchers tossing pancakes as part of the celebrations to mark the official opening of the Weight Watchers Centre at 104 North Main Street, Cork. Picture Denis Minihane.

This Easter will be unlike any before however, with churches forced to overhaul their usual proceedings. Holy Week and Easter ceremonies will be lived streamed. 

A Vatican decree has stated that the Holy Thursday "washing of the feet" is to be omitted and has granted special permission for the celebration of the Mass "without the presence of the people". 

So too, annual Lenten traditions such as the Trócaire Appeal was affected by the outbreak of Covid-19. 

In March, the charity announced that it had taken the decision to cancel all public outreach activities.

"Each year, our teams travel all over Ireland throughout Lent to deliver talks, exhibitions and other events aimed at highlighting our campaign and raising the funds needed to help millions of people around the world," Trócaire CEO Caoimhe de Barra said.

"This is a vital time of year for Trócaire’s fundraising, but the safety of our supporters, volunteers and staff comes first. In light of the risk posed by Covid-19, we believe it is the responsible decision to cancel these events this year," she continued.

Fr Joe Coughlan puts ash on the foreheads of students at the Honan Chapel on Ash Wednesday, 2004. Pic: Gavin Browne
Fr Joe Coughlan puts ash on the foreheads of students at the Honan Chapel on Ash Wednesday, 2004. Pic: Gavin Browne

Indeed, it has been a Lent like we’ve never experienced before. 

For those who have stuck to their Lenten sacrifice, the end is now in sight and for those who have fallen off the wagon, there’s always next year.

More in this section

Sponsored Content