It is interesting for me, as I recall my Easter experiences in America as a child, to reflect on how very different a feeling Easter memories have, in contrast to those of Christmas. While it is of course a holiday related to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, any dour, somber mood or feeling, is very far from those I feel and recall from our families and community’s celebrations of Easter. If I were to select a single word to summarize my memories of many Easters as a child, it would be “freshness” – which is certainly also related to the weather and rebirth of Spring. As a child, Easter was not longed for as was Christmas, nor was it such a huge, commercialized, shopping season. It certainly was “religious” (to a degree), but not only that...
For us children, in my family, Easter really meant hunting for Easter eggs, in new – they had to be new – Easter clothes, worn for the first time on that morning. It wasn’t really difficult at all to sleep on the Saturday night before Easter – as it seemed really impossible to sleep on Christmas Eve. We knew that the “Easter Bunny” would bring us a basket full of sweets, chocolates and candy eggs, which we had also seen in a local shopping store. It was usually wrapped in a transparent, color-tinted plastic paper, and sealed at the top by a colorful ribbon. I recall that it always had – among several kinds of candies and sweets – one kind of soft candy which none of us children liked, and which we either ate last, or not at all.
As on Christmas day, as soon as we children woke up, we wanted our Easter presents. And while we got our “Easter basket” immediately, the best part of the day – hunting for the Easter eggs hidden by the Easter Bunny – had to wait, at our mother’s insistence, until after a big breakfast of eggs, bacon, grits, toast, milk and orange juice. The Easter Rabbit was a rather smart creature, for he had also always left an empty basket for each child to gather the hidden eggs into. So, breakfast finished, new clothes donned, out we went to hunt for Easter Eggs. Usually we had painted and dyed the eggs – 3 or 4 dozen (hard-boiled) – the night before, so that the Easter Rabbit only had to hide them from us. (In good weather he would hide them outside in the yard, in bad weather he of course hid them inside the house.) We usually walked out of the house all together with our parents, and were given subtle hints as to the area of the yard where the Easter Rabbit had hidden the eggs. We never thought to ask how the parents had learned this information from the rabbit. Eager as we were, the parents made us all wait – for us kids it was of course a contest to see who could find the most eggs – until all of the children were equally ready ... and then “O.K.”... and off we dashed. In great excitement we rushed to trees, to bushes, searching fallen leaves, yard chairs, patches of grass ... snatching up eggs victoriously, and putting them into our basket as quickly as we could, and rushing further around ... looking … looking.
Some of the eggs were easily visible – “any kid could find that egg”, we said indignantly, defending our keen egg-hunting abilities. But it was the last 3 or 4 eggs that really tested those abilities. Sometimes, if we refused parental aid or coaxing, the final missing eggs could take up to a half-hour to find. And then there were special plastic eggs (holding usually a dollar bill). And one big golden egg was hidden somewhere, which contained usually a $5 or $10 bill. That was the egg to find, and it was usually hidden the hardest as well. The rabbit sometimes even hid it in the lower branches of trees!
Well, finally all of the eggs were found. The eggs each child had found were often counted, and the eggs usually then equally distributed among the kids. We knew who had found the most eggs, and we did not much care about hard-boiled eggs anyway. The special plastic “dollar eggs” were also shared, so that each child got one. But the Golden egg, that was the prize for one – the one who found it. The air was often crisp and clean on that early morning spring day. Clad in our new “Easter clothes”, after hunting, off we would go to church, for the Easter Sunday Service. The service was grand and crowded – and we children tried to sit quietly (in the Church pews) during the Easter service of an hour or so. We were dutifully waiting to go outside to play with our friends.
For us kids... well, it wasn’t as good as Christmas, but we did have a few days holiday from school, and that wasn’t so bad. And, gradually eating chocolate eggs and candies over a couple of days was certainly not difficult.
After Church, we would usually go to our grandmother’s house, where we would have a huge Easter feast (of great-tasting country dishes) which we would have just after the kids had hunted again for the Easter eggs that the Rabbit had left for us at grandmother’s house!
First published in the magazine English, #12, March 1997, p. 3.