The Easter Conundrum
The Easter Conundrum
Easter was always a special time for us as children growing up in a Catholic household. New Clothes and a week-long build up of religious events had us on edge going into the grand finale, Easter Sunday Mass. Everyone put on their best “church clothes” and paraded in and out of God’s Home like they do in a New York City Fashion show.
It also meant the end of the Lenten season and a return to eating whatever treats you had “given up” during Lent. We were never really clear about that whole murky business, of “giving things up,” but followed through on the practice. You needed whatever brownie points you could amass during Lent to atone for the many infractions committed during the rest of the year.
Easter Sunday also meant a grand dinner in the afternoon, with relatives and friends invited. Ham was the most popular entrée but the side dishes were both varied and delicious. A “butter lamb” from the Broadway market was a necessary addition. We ate with youthful abandon, enjoying the plenty that the post Lenten feast provided.
And then of course, there was the whole tradition of Easter bunnies, dyed eggs and a Dentist’s delight of chocolate bunnies and eggs to gladden the heart of every child. We never really gave much thought to this whole business, just accepted it as one of those things that you did every spring around Easter.
It was only later in life that I began to wonder what all this bunny stuff was all about. What did Easter bunnies have to do with the grand passion and crucifixion of Jesus Christ? Well, nothing actually as I was later to find out.
It seems that in the Germanic countries the custom arose in the mid 1600’s. Folklore had it that an Easter Hare would arrive the night before the holiday and if the children were found to have been good, he left dyed eggs and delicacies. Does this yarn sound familiar? At the least the Bunny wasn’t wearing red flannel underwear and spouting a full white beard.
To those of us blessed with Hibernian Extraction, it is a time to remember the 1916 “Easter Rising” in Eire. It was a brave but futile exposition of nationhood put on my men and women who knew it was but one more “beau geste” in the long process that would one day free Eire forever.
Like most holidays, numerous cultures had added on their own traditions over the years, until Easter became a mishmash of bunny hopping, side by side with many other traditions and the grand–passion of Christ. It all seemed normal to us at the time? Children rarely question physical and temporal anomalies. They just rock and roll with the “now,” enjoying the day and all the wonderful things that it brought to them.
And maybe the kids have it right. So, now, I watch “The Greatest Story Ever told,” “Ben Hur,” “Michael Collins” and a few other classics depicting the full panoply of time and events now long past, while munching on a few chocolate eggs and thinking about the best clothes to wear to the very crowded Easter Mass on Sunday. And if the history and traditions get a little mixed up, so what! All the other holiday celebrations are as equally confusing, but offer one more celebration of life to remind us of how fortunate that we are. It works for me.
( 586 words)
Joseph Xavier Martin