Lent is a big deal in my home country (Philippines). I believe that it is not only because Filipinos are predominantly Catholics but because the faith (and religious practices around Catholicism, in general) has been deeply rooted within our society.

By His cross, we are saved. Photo via Flickr.

Relocating to a new country made me realize how the Philippines take Lent seriously. The striking differences other countries treat religious events such as Lent in comparison to how we do it in the Philippines made me wonder whether our practices had been overkill.

Luckily, I never felt any prejudice within the community I live in because of my faith, but I realized I may not celebrate Lent the same way as I did back in the Philippines.

In fact, my Mom told me she somehow regretted traveling to Dublin a couple of years ago during the Lenten season. She said she “missed” the feeling of having a jam-packed day filled with Lenten activities as she finds herself stuck inside the apartment immediately after the “quick” Mass in our local parish.

Celebrating Lent in Dublin will seem uneventful to those who are used to the busyness this season brings. And to those newly relocated Filipino Catholics in Dublin, here are some of the things you should know.

Lent may feel just like a normal day

ash wednesday
Mass celebrations for Ash Wednesday. Photo via Flickr

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. And in most Catholic churches/communities in the Philippines, “extra” Mass times are provided to make sure as much people gets the chance to go to Church. It is symbolic to get the forehead marked with the cross but growing up doing this, it feels different (even shameful) not to be able to do so after I became an Expat in Dublin.

And it is not that I intentionally forget about Ash Wednesday either. It is just that there are times when the only available Mass time lands at the same hour as a conference call or meeting with colleagues – prohibiting me to attend the Mass. And unfortunately over here, there are no extra Mass times even on Holy Days like this. Building managers will not go the “extra mile” to set up a makeshift mass schedule for employees working in the area either.  So once I miss it, there is no chance to attend an “after-office-Mass” or “lunchtime Mass”.

It is important to check your local parish for Lenten activities (if they have!)

One of the things my Mom noted about the Lenten celebration here is the lack of Lenten-related activities to participate in. It is possible she might’ve felt better if she went to the Cathedral in the city center but it will never compare to the TONS of activities during Lent you can participate in when in the Philippines during this event.

Senakulo. Photo via Flickr

Easter vigil until midnight, seven last words, Good Friday procession, Stations of the Cross, or out-of-town recollections/retreats are just some of the Lenten celebrations to look forward to during Lent. And in some provinces, a re-enactment of Christ’s suffering (and crucifixion) called Senakulo are among the Lenten highlights to look forward to.

Public Holiday dates are not the same

In the Philippines, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are public holidays. This is the reason why it is easy for most people to take the entire week off in order to go to their province and observe Lent. This allows them to make sure they can attend as much Lenten activities as possible, indulge in deep prayer, or in any “spiritually enriching” activity they prefer. After all, it is during Lent where most Filipinos reflect on their life and how they can improve their relationship with God. And in effect, it encourages everybody (working class included) to make sure they use the Lenten season to rejuvenate not only their physical bodies but also their soul.

In Ireland, the public holiday starts on Good Friday, which is almost the end of the Lenten activities. They do have an “extra” holiday tagged as Easter Monday but by this time, all the Lenten activities are over. Easter Monday is also the time where the monumental Easter Uprising occurred, hence, the reason why it is a public holiday here. There is no “direct” religious relevance to the public holiday and most people use this as a day to relax and unwind.