One of my favorite things when I was a kid was eating hard boiled eggs. Well, eating the whites, anyway. The yolks were usually kinda gross, but as an adult I realize that it was because my mom overcooked the eggs in an effort to make sure they were done. …She used to do that with a lot of food. But I digress. As a child I didn’t really make the connection between the coming of Palm Sunday and the minister handing out palm fronds and the arrival of the Easter Bunny. Although it probably didn’t help that I was raised Eastern Orthodox, which uses a different calendar to calculate when Easter is observed. In recent memory, it’s only once fallen on the same date as is observed by Catholics and Protestants. This ‘moveable feast’ is celebrated on the first Sunday following the full moon after the Spring equinox… Complicated, isn’t it? That’s why I was confused as a kid. Christmas, Halloween, and my birthday are always on the same day of the year, but Easter can be any Sunday between March 22nd and April 25th!
So what’s up with the bunnies and candy and eggs anyway? Well, believe it or not, although the Easter holiday is celebrated across the world as a Christian holiday, its origins are decidedly pagan. The Spring Equinox (anywhere between March 19th and 22nd) was around long before Jesus was. And while Christ’s symbolic resurrection is echoed in the abundance of sprouting plants and baby animals that appear in springtime, the seasons were definitely here first. Eggs are often seen as signs of fertility as well, because well… fertilize an egg and you get a chicken. These delicious food items were often also used in folk magic to renew fertility or bless a marriage so that many children would be bred. While I can’t speak to this method’s accuracy, it certainly had a lasting effect on popular culture.
And why is it ham that’s eaten at Easter celebrations? Well it has really nothing to do with religion at all. The reason is because pork products can be heavily salted without tasting nasty – especially ham and bacon – and could be stored for the longest periods of time without going bad. The last of the slaughtering before the winter was traditionally done in October, and afterwards there would be huge rushes to get everything cured and stored before the winter set in and nobody even wanted to go outside. When winter ended and spring officially sprang, there would be feasting. Of course you’d want to eat the tastiest of the stored meats that you had left, and that was traditionally ham.
Candy, of course, is the thing that kids really care about, though. I remember that green plastic grassy stuff all nestled in a wicker basket and candy hidden like…well, like Easter eggs inside it. My favorites were definitely the jelly beans. Or possibly the marshmallow peeps… My least favorites were the chocolate rabbits. I’m not sure why really. I mean, I like chocolate as much as the next person. At least I think I do. Maybe it was the crumbly nature of the beast. Like, bite an ear off and because the whole thing is hollow you end up with chocolate down your shirt or on your pants. As an adult though, I definitely want the zombie easter bunny because why not?! I probably wouldn’t eat it, because it’s made of white chocolate, but it would sure be a conversation starter with my friends.
I don’t think that children really get that Easter is actually a whole season, as opposed to simply a Sunday where they get candy and dress up in Easter Suits and dresses. My parents didn’t force me to give up things for Lent, and it wasn’t until high school that I really even tried it. I never should have tried to give up Tea Cooler though, because the headaches that went with it were awful. For those of you unfamiliar with this central Pennsylvanian delicacy, it’s basically a pasteurized, mass-produced Arnold Palmer. Because it’s half tea, there’s a wicked caffeine withdrawal thing that happens when you give it up cold turkey. Whoops. Back before I learned the dubious joys of caffeine, when I was still a bonny wee tot, I’d decorate eggs with my grandma. We’d buy those silly PAAS Easter egg kits with the dye that smelled so bad, and we’d try to approximate the designs they had on the box. Obviously, we always failed miserably, but that was part of the fun. Sometimes we’d buy the plastic egg sleeves that you’d put over the egg before you boiled it. Then it’d shrink down to completely encase the egg. I didn’t like those as much though, because it made it hard to eat the egg after. They were easier to make than the painted eggs, but mostly because we didn’t have these nifty holders. Oh, if I had it all to do again.
I guess maybe it wasn’t as much the making of the eggs specifically as it was just doing stuff with my grandma that was what I really enjoyed. She’s still around, but we don’t live close, and we certainly don’t do crafts anymore. I’d sure have liked to make these bunny and chick ornaments though. Heck, I’d make them now. And I bet there’s some awesome stuff my grandma and I could make in this Eco Crafts Kit. Maybe I should go visit this weekend.
Posted: Saturday, March 26, 2016