Yesterday was Easter.
When I was a kid, we had a lot of Easter traditions. The day before Easter, we all piled into my parents’ minivan and trekked out to Hebert’s Candy Mansion in Shrewsbury, MA, for our annual purchase of Easter delights (Hebert’s has wonderful solid chocolate bunnies and probably some of the best tasting chocolate I’ve had in my life). Once we’d spent way too much money on sugary goods, we’d head home and dye eggs. My mother hard boiled a dozen large white eggs, and my brother, sister, and I sat around half a dozen coffee cups filled with vinegar and fizzing tablets intended to stain the eggs in red and blue and purple and green.
The next morning, we rose before dawn (we had to get all the Easter festivities out of the way before heading off to church) and typically went through an extended telling of the Easter story over breakfast before combing the house for hidden eggs and Easter baskets. The baskets were stocked simply: the candy we’d purchased the day before and maybe a simple gift, usually with a religious theme (one year, we all got Bibles; another year, it was all Christian literature. In contrast, though, one year, we all got small toys–my sister and I got My Little Pony bunnies and my brother got a toy train).
From there, the day varied year by year. Every year, we went to church. Some years, my siblings and I sang in a church chorus that my dad directed (I think they still have the video of all of us shriek-singing “Hear the Bells Ringing,” the congregation falling over themselves with laughter at the sudden bombastic increase in volume as we all exclaim, “JOY TO THE WORLD!”). Other years, we sniffled our way through a simpler service, all reminded that we’d inherited my mother’s allergy to Easter lilies. After church, we often had my mother’s family visit, which meant a lot of cleaning and cooking and prepping of our little house. At some point in the afternoon, my dad and my uncles went out into the yard and hid candy-filled eggs for the little kids to find and money-filled eggs for us big kids. It was almost always cold and rainy.
Kyle and I take a much simpler approach to Easter, owing at least partly to the fact that neither of us are really church-goers… and partly to the fact that Sam is still not quite three and has only the vaguest grasp of concepts like “Easter” and “candy” and “look for the eggs.” We don’t dye eggs because nobody in our house really eats hard boiled eggs, and we don’t really entertain, so those colorful eggs would end up sitting in our fridge until someone got fed up and threw them away. We do Easter baskets and candy eggs, mostly because Kyle and I only have one kid right now and we really like lavishing him with goodies.
(true story: Kyle has to hold me back from overspending on Sam’s Easter basket. I don’t go to the lengths of people who treat Easter as Christmas 2.0, but he’s reminded me on numerous occasions that both of us got maybe one or two trinkets for Easter and turned out just fine, and so Sam will turn out just fine if I don’t fill his basket to overflowing)
(other true story: Kyle really hates Easter grass, but Easter baskets look ridiculous without it. We tried to compromise this year by getting edible Easter grass, but it’s kind of like if raw spaghetti tasted like cotton candy. Sam wasn’t impressed, I’m not impressed, and I think Kyle’s going to end up eating all of it)
So it went this year. Sam had a modest basket filled with mostly candy and a few toys and books (namely, Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker action figures that are exactly the right size for his toddler hands; he hasn’t put them down since he plucked them from the basket). We got some oversized plastic eggs from Target and filled them with jelly beans and pastel M&Ms and chocolate bunnies wrapped in foil. I love dressing Sam up, so I got him some turquoise pants and a striped shirt from Old Navy, and he wore those to my parents’ house, where we all ate spaghetti and meatballs and watched a decade-old documentary on the making of Star Wars.
Oh, and I baked a cake that tasted “okay” and that looked like a frosting factory had a tragic accident. Suffice it to say that I will not soon be quitting my day job to be either (a) a Pinterest Mom, or (b) a baker.
(this happens to me with unerring frequency. Complex decoration is not my forte)
Holidays are honestly one of the more delightful parts of raising our own new family. We consider the traditions that we enjoyed as kids, discard the ones that don’t fit (dyeing hard boiled eggs) and keep the ones that do (the trip to Hebert’s, which is much less crowded at 10 a.m. a week before Easter than it is at 2 p.m. the day before Easter, let me tell you).
We create our own traditions, too. This year, I sort of invented a tradition that Sam isn’t quite old enough to understand yet: the Easter lobster. While we were at Hebert’s, Sam spotted a lollipop shaped like a lobster and dyed his favorite shade of cherry red. I’m horribly indulgent when it comes to holidays and Sam making cute faces at me, and so I bought it. I have no explanation, as of yet, for the Easter lobster; but you bet I’m going to buy a lobster lollipop for Easter every year until the day I die.
All of those traditions wrapped up together create our family identity, and what I really love is that a family identity in that sense isn’t limited to traditional nuclear families. It extends to found families, too. I love reading about my friends in their 20s who just live together as roommates and friends and are still pulling together found family traditions–dyeing eggs and giving each other Easter baskets and the like. And those traditions and identities, in turn, become part of your individual identity, and basically, humans are really cool in that way.
(we’re all Tevye at heart, a little bit)
The upcoming months are free of any major holidays but are absolutely packed with things to do–Sam turns three on May 13, Mother’s Day is somewhere around there, we’re flying to Texas for a vacation on May 18, getting back in time for Memorial Day, then Father’s Day and Kyle’s birthday in June, and throw in a business trip for good measure. It’ll all finally calm down somewhere around Independence Day–a holiday for which our traditions mostly entail going to my uncle’s house for a cookout (for which I intend to bake something else) and then coming home, hot and exhausted, to watch Boston’s Pops Goes the Fourth! on television rather than in person, because I am not braving those crowds thank you very much.
And then long, hot, boring July and August and September, Renaissance Faires and Kat’s birthday and Halloween in October, all bleeding into a holiday season that stretches, for me at least, from October straight on through January. And then it all starts over again.