Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easter Traditions

Easter is probably second only to Christmas in the amount of holiday traditions I remember as a kid.  Halloween is probably a close third, but Easter has long been one of my favorite holidays for so many reasons.  The fact that it usually falls in close proximity to spring is probably one of the top reasons, though this year that's a hollow concept since it snowed yet again this morning.  While I'm grateful none of it is sticking, the mere fact that it's cold enough to snow is just depressing.  Spring's been here for a month already, and we have very little to show for it other than some daffodils and greener grass.  A handful of trees only have the tiniest of leaves, and we're still mostly wearing winter coats.  I haven't even been able to take pictures of my pretty daffodils because I never want to be outside fumbling with my camera with cold hands.  It's a far cry from last year where it was in the 80s for most of Easter weekend, despite the fact it fell three weeks earlier.  Leaves popped out that weekend, making them nearly a month early.  That was crazy and I'm not asking for that.  But I fully expected we could ditch the winter coats by this year's late Easter...but no such luck.  It's getting really depressing, for all of us.

Still, I love a lot of things about Easter.  I love the flowers, the fun of Easter eggs and Easter baskets, the chocolate, the music at church, and even the melancholy day that is Good Friday.  Heck, as a kid I even liked the mall Easter Bunny better than Santa.  Perhaps Easter has always been a bright spot at the end of a 40-day long dark tunnel.  When I was younger our church was always very serious about Lent.  Wednesday church services, church every night of Holy Week, no weddings, and a generally non-perky set of hymns at each service...though ironically we were never encouraged to give anything up for Lent, nor did we do ashes on Ash Wednesday.  We must have considered those reserved for Catholics.  But on Easter Sunday?  Well, the church was brighter than ever, full of flowers and a huge white cross, and the music was absolutely wonderful--loud, enthusiastic, rich, and full of the great redeeming message of Easter.  We had an unfortunate early wakeup on Easter for the 6:30am Sunrise service, which always seemed to coincide with daylight savings and loss of an hour of sleep, but once I was there and starting to wake up, it was always so beautiful.  And thanks to a less strenuous schedule on Easter as compared to Christmas, I could actually go home at some point at take a well-needed nap.  There was still plenty of family time and fun activities--usually breakfast with one side of the family and a smorgasbord with the other later in the day--but more downtime.  Ahhh.

Easter weekend was generally a good time.  It helped that I usually had off from school starting Thursday, and from there on there was a lot of time spent at church--Maundy Thursday evening for a communion service that served as a reunion for our confirmation class, then Friday morning for the children's Good Friday service.  We usually went to that one because it was simple, memorable, and well, it was tradition.  The new confirmands ran most of the service (always an interesting element) and the sermon always consisted of a set of props illustrating some of the torture Jesus went through prior to the actual crucifixion.  It did the trick, and it made Good Friday a good day for reflection.  Good Friday evening we'd generally go to my grandparents' house for an old German tradition, prunes & noodles, that my grandma always spearheaded.  I didn't start eating it until just a few years ago, when my cousin Lori made sure the tradition continued.  Now I do enjoy it (minus the stewed plums--just noodles, croutons, and maybe a little of the juice or some Parmesan)...but truly, any excuse to hang out with the fam. 

Usually somewhere during the weekend we'd dye Easter eggs, which I always loved.  It was always a challenge to get the best colors, and we always did old-school vinegar and food coloring, rather than the store-bought kits.  I didn't really start getting interested in the store-bought kits until I started helping with our church's Easter breakfast setup.  My mom and I would go on Saturday to help set up, and my favorite tasks were setting out baskets of mini cereal boxes and colored eggs.  I also enjoyed the added benefits of coffee cake crumbs, disconnected grapes, and a selection of donuts, but I digress.  I loved seeing the cartons of eggs everyone would bring in, full of colorful and creative eggs.  We'd sometimes color ours with white crayons before dyeing, but some people used stickers, wraps, and all sorts of crazy colors.  Their colors were so vivid!  But now that I'm an adult and will be dyeing eggs with my child in the coming years (not brave enough this year), I think we'll go old-school.  If everyone's got the crazy colors, aren't the old-school ones more special now?  But maybe I'll indulge my inner child once and do the store-bought stuff...

Usually somewhere in the week or so before Easter I'd do an Easter egg hunt or two.  Our family used to do one with all the cousins, and for years church did one, too.  I haven't done a real Easter egg hunt in ages, though.  My mom did one for Jacob and a little girl down the street last year, which Jacob totally bailed on, and then their church did an Easter egg free-for-all (not so much a hunt as it was just eggs and candy scattered everywhere) after church, in which Jacob was lucky enough to win a giant blue bunny.  Nothing so far this year, but we'll see.  I always felt so inferior at Easter egg hunts--slower, less creative a looker than others--but the haul of candy and goodies was always fun.  And I will always remember winning the one little stuffed bunny at our family one.  My prized possession for a long time!

Easter morning we'd always do an Easter egg hunt around our house.  Usually we'd try to get it in before church and find our Easter baskets hidden in any number of creative spots around the house.  It could be so frustrating to find them, but such a great victory in the end.  Usually my pink basket was full of Platters chocolate (yum!), and some other varied candies--jelly beans, robin eggs, etc.  And usually there was one little treat, be it a few bucks in an egg or some special gift...nothing big, but usually fun!  Even when I was older, my mom would bag up our candy into baggies for us to take with us back to college or home.  So sweet :) 

As far as Jacob is concerned, I have a feeling most Easter mornings will be spent like Christmas--on the road--but maybe one of these years we'll get in the habit of doing a little hunt in one place or another.  I'm not sure when it will actually be worthwhile, though.  Jacob is a different sort of kid, for starters.  Also, I had the benefit of being the second child so most of our holiday traditions and activities were already in place for John by the time I was old enough to know.  I've always grown up with them but now have no idea when it'll be appropriate for Jacob. 

Our weekend will probably be pretty similar otherwise.  Church Friday night, and Sunday morning, and a yummy Easter breakfast at church with my parents before heading out to Craig's side of the family for a couple stops.  Busier than my childhood for sure, but it will be nice to see everyone.  We are also planning on visiting the Broadway Market in Buffalo tomorrow, an Easter tradition for many Buffalonians, but one neither of us has participated in in years.  It should be interesting, and who knows?  Maybe it'll be a new tradition for us, too.  I still have to survive a good workout, cooking dinner, and lots of packing before the fun can begin, though.  Wish us luck...and Happy Easter :)

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