The season of spring brings the holiday of Easter. Growing up in my Catholic Christian family Easter was the greatest celebration of the year. For the 40 days of Lent we had practiced sacrifice, amped up prayer and charity in preparation for the death and resurrection of the Lord. Holy week was a time of prayer and church services, culminating in Easter, celebrating the resurrection of Christ to save humankind. On Good Friday afternoon, all businesses in our community were closed from noon to 3 p.m. in honor of the time Jesus hung on the cross.
We attended Sunday mass every week, but on Easter Sunday it had special meaning. For me, the greatest significance of Easter is the religious meaning. Easter has now become commercialized to the point that faithful Christians may not think about the religious meaning.
The spring holiday further represents newness. A tradition dating back for generations is having new clothes for Easter Sunday. My brothers and sisters always had new-to-us clothes which we were always so proud of. With eight children brand new clothes for each of us were out of the question, but we always proudly wore the clothes that we did get. Girls and women were required to have their heads covered at Mass, so my sisters and I always got a new-to-us hat for Easter. They would not have been classified as the traditional Easter bonnet, but it was part of our Easter tradition. The other symbols of Easter also represent newness and rebirth. Eggs, bunnies, chicks and lambs have been symbols of Easter and spring time for generations. The Easter bunny always came to our house over night and hid a basket for each of the 8 children. Hunting for the baskets was great fun. The very intelligent Easter bunny always hid the older kids’ baskets in more difficult places. We had to be very quiet when we found a basket and check the name on the basket so we would not inadvertently give away the location of someone else’s basket. One year one of my older brothers came in late from doing morning chores and did not have time to hunt for his basket. We had already found his basket but we would not tell him where it was. He got angry and never did look for that basket. I am not sure what he gained by that display of stubbornness and I am not sure if he ever got his candy.
Our Easter bunny had an over-developed sense of fairness. He (or she since it was my mom) counted out the pieces of candy and made sure that each basket contained the exact same number of each candy. The jelly beans were counted out by color and everyone got the same number of each color. I am sure the intention was to prevent squabbles and accusations of unfairness among the kids. But eight children would find something to squabble about if they were so inclined. After the baskets were found, the trading began. We all attempted to negotiate and trade for our favorite candies. The older kids always tried to take advantage of the younger ones–3 jelly beans for one marshmallow bunny, for example–and I suppose they were successful. What kid wouldn’t be convinced at least once that 3 pieces of candy were better than just one?
The biggest basket always belonged to my dad. His basket was not hidden but proudly graced the dining room table. After the Easter bunny evenly counted out all of the candy, any uneven numbers went in my Dad’s basket.
I know we always had dyed Easter eggs but we don’t remember coloring them. I think Mom dyed the eggs after the kids were in bed because she didn’t want to have to put up the with the mess the younger kids probably would have made. One year when my cousins were coming over to spend Easter Sunday with us, mother dyed a very large number of eggs and hid them in the hay mow. We had great fun with that Easter egg hunt.
With my daughter the traditions continued, including celebrating our faith with Sunday Mass and a new Easter dress. Plastic Easter eggs filled with candy were hidden around the house. Her basket was also hidden along with a couple of small gifts. She loved hunting for the Easter eggs. She would find them once. Then all day long we would take turns hiding and finding the Easter eggs. When it was her turn to hide the eggs, she did so with great delight. And would then take us around the living room showing us exactly where we could find each egg.
Easter traditions, just another thread of my life.