Thursday, April 17, 2014

Bunnies, berries, and the burden of tradition.

Easter, 2013

Easter, much like Christmas, is a holiday I find confusing now that I am an adult.

Like most people in this country, my Easter traditions growing up were a hodge-podge of bunnies and eggs and Jesus.  As a Catholic schoolgirl we spent the week of Easter making paper baskets and fluffy chicks with pipe-cleaners.  On Good Friday we ended a somber morning at school by marching over to church for the Stations of the Cross (which, if I remember correctly, took about 639 hours).  Then, dismissed early!  We went home, filled every coffee cup we could find with smelly dyes, and dunked our boiled eggs in over and over until they all looked kind of black-ish.

Saturday was filled with a Christmas-Eve-like sense of excitement and anticipation, and Sunday we woke to Easter baskets chock full of small toys, chocolate bunnies, and plastic eggs containing money or candies.  We ran outside to find our eggs (I, the competitive one, would insist on finding the most and bragging about it all day), and my brother and I then took turns hiding them from each other until it was time for church.  We attended Sunday mass, a quick 1-hour blip of obligation in an otherwise carefree day, then headed home to get ready for dinner.  All of my much-older relatives came over (I had no cousins close to my age) and we feasted on ham, deviled eggs, potato salad, and my mom's amazing strawberry shortcake.

And now?  Well.  There's still shortcake!

I feel like I am in the middle of a process, here. Having a kid has made me rethink (and overthink) the way I do just about everything.  I am suddenly faced with the responsibility of creating the holidays for her, weaving together the tapestry of magic and excitement and meaning that will envelop her until she, too, is an adult and redefines them for herself. 

Easter is confusing for me because I am unsure, myself, what it all means.  We are not Christians, so though she will grow knowing the religious significance of the day, it is not something we will celebrate in our home.  The whole rabbit/egg thing does not make any sense to me.  Why does a magical bunny hide eggs?  What mythology is this based on?  What is the historical significance?  I could Google it to find out, but the fact that I have to research it just underlines my point.  It's silly.  We're not big gift-givers.  Chocolate is a daily reality, not an occasional indulgence.

Don't pay too much attention to me, friends.  I am a planner.  I cannot delve into something until I have researched all sides of it and formed a coherent strategy (I forgive you for eye-rolling).  I am learning to let go when it comes to the specifics of how we celebrate - as a kid, I didn't love Easter because I really understood the meaning of the day, I didn't care that the Easter Bunny made no sense, or that dyeing eggs was not really a sensible craft.  I loved it because it was fun.  My family comes together to talk and laugh.  The weather turns warm around Easter time, everything is green, we eat cold, summery foods.  It feels like a celebration of life, and family, and the start of summer.  We don't need to subscribe to either the religious or the commercial meaning of the holiday for it to be significant.

I am going to try to let our traditions grow organically, year by year.  Which means that we might not do much this year - I bought Amaliya some bunny ears that terrify her so thoroughly, she won't even touch them.  I am not going to spend money on an Easter basket when she has spent the last week obsessed with a wrinkled, taped-together, brown paper shopping bag.  But maybe we will go to the park, soak up the sunlight, and be grateful for the life that surrounds us.  Maybe we'll go to the farmer's market and pick up some fat, juicy strawberries.

Because Easter is just not Easter without strawberries.

What has been your experience creating new holidays for your family?  Are you raising your kids with different traditions than those you were raised with?  

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