Easter, what does it mean to you? If you have faith it means a special church service, the sadness for Good Friday, and the joy of Easter Sunday. Yet in the world we inhabit, you could be forgiven if you thought Easter was just a chocolate eating slice of heaven.
So I am going to compare how Easter was when I was a child, and how it was for my children. Then what it means for children today.
For us, Easter was all about going to a church on Easter Sunday, although not heavily religious the pattern of life for my parents and their friends involved the traditions. The church would be filled for that special day.
I loved the flowers and the whole smell of Easter, as in England it meant the start of Spring, a time of new life, renewal and hope. We did have chocolate of course! But that came as after the wartime rations ceased.
Then food became more important, and other traditions came along. Mum always bought a ‘hock’ a piece of ham bone that she cooked and we had picnics and sandwiches with beautiful home cooked ham. The fish we ate on Good Friday was usually smoked fish. Who could forget Easter biscuits, every bakery sold them, spicy and currant dotted and totally delicious. The other food we had to eat? Well the buns of course, always fruit filled, always spicy and the smell from bakeries near us was divine. No crazy chocolate buns, or fruitless buns… It was plain and simple buns eaten hot with real butter. The last food Mum made for Easter was a Simmnel cake, made with rich fruits and a layer of marzipan in the middle, the final touch was the marzipan on top and little eggs to decorate. I have made one once, but it was a lot of effort, and somehow never quite tasted the same as Mum made.
I maintained some traditions for my children, the buns, the fish, and the cooked ham, but then I added more pleasures as the world became more commercial about Easter.
CHOCOLATE. That became the focus about then. The children always had one large egg each, and it was on the breakfast table on Easter Sunday, we didn’t eat chocolate for a week before! This was supplemented by Mother in law and my Mother giving them more eggs. We didn’t do the egg hunt in our family. I do remember friends having a garden egg hunt though. Another tradition was little gifts given at Easter. Things like new white socks, a pretty ribbon, a hair slide or a toy.
I started yet another tradition for my children, I decorated little baskets and painted or bought eggs and chicks and bunnies to go in them, so on our Easter table there was often a whole display, with the first daffodils and some primroses, it made for a really cheerful dinner table.
The first time we came to Australia for a holiday, I was amazed at the sheer number of eggs on display. We were in a shopping centre in Frankston, and there was a wall of eggs, then more and more in the shops, I had never seen that many in one place. Now England has caught up, I am quite sure there are thousands on display in every shopping centre there too. Any number of ‘special’ items are on sale, toys, cards, novelties, anything with a rabbit or a chick involved is deemed to have an Easter theme, another ploy to make us spend, spend, spend, and the varieties of chocolate delights defies all logic.
So what about the children now? Do they pester you for Easter eggs as soon as Christmas has been packed away? You can hardly blame the children, commercialism has decreed that as soon as the tinsel is gone, out come the buns and the eggs. Mention Easter and children go into a chocolate haze, perhaps there are other traditions for this time of year? Like the last camping trip before you put the tent away? Or a family picnic before the dreaded cold days begin.
We live in a small town and Easter is our main event. Yarram has an Easter parade, with homemade wobbly displays from each school or business in on the act. There are street perfomers, plenty of food on sale, happy kids everywhere eating chocolate, art shows, craft shows, music, and events in the park. I think I love small town Easter best of all, something about the smell of hamburgers, and onions, hot cross buns, and the sound of jazz in the street is just fun. The people come from miles away, bringing tents and trailers and caravans, or staying in the motels, so it is good for a town struggling with a tough economic time. Many small towns relying on farming are the same. So Happy Easter!
How do you celebrate Easter? What are your traditions?