About 20 years ago today I was home from London for Easter. I was really excited to finally show two friends around Dublin for the weekend, where they had a few days before heading off to the greener west. Obviously the first thing we had to plan was which famous Dublin pub to head to for the evening. And then my mum intervened: “but sure all the pubs are closed, it’s Good Friday”. I’d never noticed this fact before, even though it happened every year. What a backward country, I thought, but my friends had the foresight to see it for what is was – a strong, even charming, tradition. And they insisted they were happy to play pictionary over tea instead.
And now today, in 2018, we have arrived in the modern age. The pubs are open on Good Friday for the first time in 90 years. The government voted on it in January though not everyone is happy about it.
A couple of towns have seen their pubs band together, declaring they will keep the tradition and stay shut, and the locals are fine with that. One pub in Dublin is donating all their proceeds to charity – I would happily have gone there.
We went out for lunch in our local – a very low-key local place that few tourists would venture into but which they would probably adore for its (very) soft couches, quiet hum, community feel, and the well-cooked beef in the carvery. Today it was busier than usual.
I looked at the other punters around to see if they were choosing to abstain anyway. The many old ladies were drinking fizzy orange or tea or water, but maybe they always do. And two young lads near us were drinking full pints of Ribena (blackcurrant squash) while plenty of others were having beer or wine. The pint in the photo was my husband’s, mine was the fizzy water.
When vetted on the issue, our waitress (Maureen, according to my Dad) said she thinks the change feels strange – “it’s tradition, you know”. She figures the public were pushing for it, though the government liked to say it was for the “tourists”. But either way, there’s expected to be an exodus over the Northern Ireland border today, to the sweet tune of about €20 million. The opening hours there are still quite restricted so they must really need a drink two days before Easter. Perhaps to line the tummies before all that chocolate.
Still, at least the car park at the local church was jam-packed as we passed it on the way home. Or were they all just going to confession?