After the fast, the feast: Bring on the buns – Nuala McCann

The desert of Lent is ending and giving way to the dessert of Easter

Nuala McCann

Nuala McCann

Nuala McCann is an Irish News columnist and writes a weekly radio review.

Carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and Easter chocolate eggs, on a gray plate, horizontal
Carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and Easter chocolate eggs, on gray plate, horizontal Lent is officially over – let the feasting begin (iuliia_n/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

As you read this, the desert of Lent comes to an end and gives way to the dessert of Easter.

What a difference an ‘s’ makes.

After the fast, the feast. Bring on the buns. Ahead of you is an oasis packed with creme eggs and French Fancies.

Lent is officially over on this day, Easter Saturday, at noon. It is a green light to break into the glut of dolly mixtures and midget gems and lemon bon bons that sang from the shelf for oh so long.

Personally I’d head for Dougies. It’s kind of an institution where I come from. They do the best tray bakes this side of a Presbyterian church tea.

We have a joke about such teas, my sister and I.

Tasty colorful jelly candies as background, above view
Tasty colorful jelly candies as background, above view The dolly mixtures and midget gems are calling me from the shelf (Liudmila Chernetska/Getty Images)

She’ll ring me and say: “Today’s St John’s fete.” We are not of their flock but they’re very welcoming and it’s like winning the lottery – you know you’re in for bun heaven at their afternoon teas.

Jammy Joeys, French fancies, German biscuits, pineapple cakes – all manner of home-baked delights await.

Apart from the sugar rush that Easter promises, it’s the idea of the clock going forward an hour that has me high.

As you read this, the desert of Lent comes to an end and gives way to the dessert of Easter. What a difference an ‘s’ makes

Already, the curtains can remain open at tea time, the light steals through the windows and you could easily write “Wash me please!” with a fingertip on the dusty glass.

Easter was never a favourite time of year – there are reasons for that – but the yellow of my mother’s forsythia in a vase on the table brightened the day.

And this time of year when I’m farther from heaven than when I was a child – as the poet said – I find myself looking back to long-ago Easters.

Those were the days when my aunts sent down Easter baskets – a large egg nestled in straw surrounded by a circle of smaller eggs and little toy chicks as well.

At Easter Sunday Mass we swapped our hated winter Aran berets for equally hated straw hats held by elastic under the chin – it stung all the way through the sermon and I couldn’t wait to toss it aside when we got home.

And then came the years that my parents decided we should go away for Easter. They picked the most remote spot they could find – Fanad in Donegal – and settled on that for a week.

What I remember is the drunk man at midnight Mass in the balcony who tried to blow out my Easter candle. He split his sides laughing with each attempt and baptised me in spittle.

Fanad gave a new meaning to remote. We were teenagers, we were bunched up, we were desperate for company.

Image of sun setting against a white lighthouse on a cliff beside the sea with dark clouds in the background
Sunset at Fanad Head lighthouse in Co Donegal (Shawn Williams/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The shop opened for an hour and it was a half an hour walk up the road past dry stone walls and whin bushes to get there.

They were lonely fields. We fell on visitors; my aunt who brought us bottles of lemonade that poured like pints of beer. My cousin who brought a football for a game on the beach and the biggest and best Easter eggs he could find.

That cheered us up after mum and dad waved us goodbye, leaving us to build sand castles on the empty sand as they meandered off for a good two hours’ walk. I hated them for it.

Then came the year of the hail and the snow – what a miserable Easter that was – and my father’s illness .

My mother had to half carry him home from their walk on the beach through the wind and the rain. We went home early and that put paid to Fanad days.

All that seems far away now.

The forsythia blooms gorse yellow on the branch.

And I would give anything to be that surly teenager in the cottage in the middle of nowhere just to have them back at the Easter table... all of us there together.