Easter at our house

This weekend we will hard boil two dozen eggs. We will layer newspaper, line up every teacup we can find and open several decorating kits. Combining dye pellets, vinegar and water in the cups, we will argue about the best way to color the eggs. Do you just plop them in, suspend them for perfect bands or push for artier techniques with resistance materials or marbling? Then we will spill the darkest hue and my husband will get irritated.

Getting over it, he will make more Jello Jiggler eggs than anyone would ever want to suck down in one gulp while I say, “gross.”

Switching from chicken and gelatin to plastic, we will fill more eggs with Nerds, SweetTarts, Robin’s Eggs, quarters and dollar bills. We will hide them all over the backyard. After finding a basket full of more candy, small gifts, and a pastel t-shirt from Old Navy, participants will empty the contents and rush outside to fill it again with discovered eggs.

We will dress up in our new t-shirts and sit around a table set with a white tablecloth, Dansk Wedding China and napkins folded into shapes or tied with ribbons. We will pull out a ceramic rabbit vase we received as a shower gift when we got married. The rabbit’s face is somewhat misshapen and we call him “The Elephant Bunny.” My husband will fill him with tulips. We will eat grilled lamb, finger potatoes and spring veggies culminating with an impossibly creamy, cakey, berry concoction.

Then we will watch Jesus Christ Superstar, both the Norman Jewison 1970’s version and the 2001 Revival. We will discuss which Judas is better, angry Judas or complicated homoerotic Judas. We will compare political themes inherent to the play vs. themes highlighted in the productions. We will eat popcorn and more chocolate.

This is how we have spent this weekend for over twenty years, give or take waning church activity, guests and whether or not I could convince anyone to watch Ben Hur instead of Jesus Christ Superstar. The question is why? Why pick smashed Peeps and purple “grass” out of my rugs for weeks? Why eggs when egg salad make everyone nauseous but me? Why hide prizes with increasing difficulty so that the dog will inevitably dig up several in July? Why celebrate Easter to such an extent when we are not particularly religious, either in a pagan or Christian sense?

Holidays for some are a day off work to relax. For others they are drenched in family obligation. We moved far away from home very early and relished the clean slate as to what holidays could look like for us. Cutting and pasting from an encyclopedia of cultural images and historical references, we assembled days filled with food, activities and shared narratives: our own, our friends and stories from our literary and spiritual traditions. What at first seemed a hodgepodge of ideas developed into scripts as our kids demanded repetition. For them, each holiday was defined by how we moved through the expected events. Clean slate became custom. Custom became ritual. If rituals are habits with symbolic imperative, our family identity is most evident in how we celebrate holidays.

Cadbury Eggs, listening to an original “Dinner Mix,” playing Scattergories . . . someone asked me the other day if we would keep doing all this when the boys were off building their own holiday traditions. I felt a flicker of possibility. Could this be a chance at another clean slate? Maybe Ben Hur could be added in after all . . .     

7 responses to “Easter at our house”

  1. Kirsten says:

    I asked the kids if they still wanted to color Easter eggs this year. I thought perhaps they might say no– they are getting older and I am the only one who eats hard-boiled eggs anyway. They looked at me with astonishment- as if I had let loose with a volley of profanity. “It’s not Easter without coloring eggs!” I guess I shouldn’t look at it as “sigh, I’ve got to get all of the stuff ready”, but rather “my kids really like it and we can use the rituals as a chance to keep connected to them.” So I will make sure we have the dye– and all of those wire, hexagon egg-holders we save year after year so no one has to share– ready for tomorrow when Dave gets back from a speaking engagement.

  2. LP says:

    PB, this really makes me want to spend Easter at your house. What a fun bunch of traditions! Easter has always been my favorite holiday – it’s springtime, there’s bunnies, you get to eat a lot of chocolate, you don’t have to buy a million presents for everyone.

    Love this. I’m gonna buy some peeps and chocolate and fake grass for sure this weekend.

  3. swells says:

    This makes me reconsider Easter as well. I have skipped it at my folks’ for several years now, rationalizing that it centers around two of my least favorite things (church and ham). Easter candy, on the other hand, is by far the best of the year (Robins’ Eggs and jelly beans, obvs) and I usually indulge a little on that end and then feel guilty for taking it cafeteria style (i.e. the candy without the church and ham). You make me want to revisit the whole deal (or, all but two parts).

  4. PB says:

    Swells – I was cracking up, I came home from work yesterday and MB says he bought a HAM(!!!!!!) for Easter. I was crushed (although appreciating the irony of your comment). He explained that because my older son is not coming home until next weekend, he wanted to mix it up a bit, lamb next weekend, ham this weekend. All I can say is that the boy who will be home tomorrow is NOT going to be happy.

    LP – We would love to have you come to our house ANYTIME. We will save some peeps for you.

    One last thought – does anyone in the TGW community remember BW great Easter treat where you put the peep in the refrigerator roll and when you bake it, it explodes like Jesus from the tomb? We think of that every year. have never done it though.

  5. Andrew says:

    I definitely need to try exploding Jesus.

    My brother in law’s family also has a tradition on Christmas in which they set up an elaborate pulley system and Jesus flies down attached from a rope on the other side of the room, ultimately landing in the manger they have set up in the corner. I really hope I get to see that some day.

    Thanks again for taking my spot! Great post.

  6. trixie says:

    Excellent new Easter tradition for us:
    Attending the annual Philly zombie crawl. It’s lead by a zombie Jesus.

  7. ScottyGee says:

    …yet another reason to visit Philly!