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    Spring Festivals
    Chalk Sunday

    This day is celebrated on the first Sunday of Lent.

    Unmarried people are marked with chalk as they enter the church. Traditionally, Catholics were not allowed to marry during Lent, so they had to wait until after Easter. Marking them with chalk is a way of teasing them for not being married.

    The first Sunday after Shrove Tuesday, was known as 'Chalk Sunday' and it was then that bachelors who should have been married were marked with a heavy streak of chalk on the back of their 'Sunday coats'.

    This trick was perpetrated by boys who carried bits of chalk in their pockets and waited for their victims to arrive. They then proceeded to mark those who were bachelors, this was done while the congregation was assembling for Mass and after the trick was played, those who did the chalk marking ran for their lives, laughing and singing the words of some little verse they had made up such as 'And you are not married though Lent has come.'

    Directly related to the escapades of Chalk Sunday was the distribution of the 'Skellig Lists'.

    Off the coast of Co. Kerry lies the Skellig Islands 'the last parish before Brooklyn'. On the Great Skellig Rock are the ruins of St. Finian's monastery and all those who should have been married before Lent were supposed to make a pilgrimage there on Shrove Tuesday night.

    Research indicates that this particular ritual was just make-believe, but the Skellig Lists were as real as the chalk marks on an unsuspecting bachelor's back. According to custom, a local bard would compose catalog of all the unmarried men and women and this list would be circulated on Shrove Tuesday and for some time after, causing much discomfort and embarrassment to all those singled out for still being unwed.

    Indirectly related to Chalk Sunday and the Skellig Lists is a game called 'Skellicking' that supposedly, boys in the city of Cork still play today. On the eve of Shrove Tuesday, they chase after a girl with a rope, two boys to a rope, and attempt to capture her. If she is caught, the boys try to encircle her with the rope and pretend to 'take her off to the Skelligs.'

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