By Maura Doyle
Lent was strictly observed in our house in the Fifties. It was a complete fast for my parents from the morning of Ash Wednesday until midday on Easter Saturday, with meat forbidden every Friday, and only one main meal allowed per day.
This was supplemented by two ‘collations’ or light snacks, one in the morning and one in the evening. Once we had received our First Communion we children were required to give up something for Lent such as sweets, sugar or cake for the entire 40 days – with one exception, St. Patrick’s Day, when we were allowed to break our fast.
On Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent began, my mother would use up whatever eggs she had left by making piping hot pancakes for the family. These were seasoned with lemon juice and dusted with icing sugar and tasted wonderful. I can still remember Mam standing for hours in front of the old gas-cooker in the steamy kitchen cooking pancakes while trying to keep those already cooked hot by putting them on a dinner plate on top of a pot of boiling water.
On Ash Wednesday, the whole family went to our local Catholic church to receive blessed ashes. While making the sign of the cross on our foreheads with the ashes the priest would intone “Remember man that thou art dust and into dust thou shalt return.” We were not likely to forget as we had to wear them for the rest of the day!
St. Patrick’s Day was eagerly awaited by my siblings and I as that was the only day throughout Lent that we could partake of whatever we had given up.
One year, having given up sweets as usual, my sister, Helen, and I decided to put any sweets we received throughout the Lenten period into two old shoe boxes. We cut a hole in the top of each box big enough to accommodate the entry of a bar of toffee and sealed the boxes with sellotape. Helen kept hers underneath the bed while mine was stashed away underneath the wardrobe.