Pre dusk April Easter Sunday. A brisk suburban walk. The air is laced with lawn clippings and flowers. But it is the reek of Good Friday’s prawns creeping past the closed lids of the kerbside bins that gets me thinking about Easter rituals.
A hard copy photograph exists of me, at about 18 months simultaneously wondering at and crushing one of the blown out coloured eggs hung delicately on bare branches in a vase in our house in Saudi Arabia. I think it was blue. The egg. The memory is of the photo, not the event.
I do remember Easter in Germany (1979-1986) was always cold.
Cold enough for the garden to refrigerate the eggs overnight. Too cold for vermin to spoil them. Real dyed eggs, some chocolate, clustered in natural nests of spring flowers. Snow drops and crocuses. A promise of winter ending. Inside, vases of willow branches with fluffy buds – irresistibly soft like kitten fur – sat in the centrally heated living room after being cut from trees on the banks of recently thawed rivers.
In Australia Easter is in autumn. Another Anglo-Saxon celebration inserted where it didn’t belong. It is all chocolate. Easter egg dye is not available as a seasonal staple in supermarkets. But I cling to what is in my marrow. What I grew up with. So, I dye hardboiled eggs with my children, using regular food dye, hot water and vinegar. It is imprinted behaviour, like baking Christmas biscuits in the heat every year.
As for the meaning of Easter…
I am more comfortable with the pagan echoes of this festival than the Christian. I identify Easter with renewal, a new season. The south of Germany, where I spent most of my childhood, is deeply Catholic. I went to church for school services, but our home was agnostic. The door to my mind was left open.
At this point I don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday (or any day). The faith required in the absence of proof is beyond me, and this belief does not add meaning to my life.
I could follow my maternal Jewish bloodlines and mark Passover with all the ancient, complex, ritual it demands. But it wouldn’t feel authentic either. Because regardless of my genetics and that side of my ancestry, I didn’t grow up with those rituals.
My husband and I had different upbringings when it came to religion. But we both had parents who, having provided us with their beliefs, allowed us to go our own way and come to our own conclusions. My own children’s upbringing has been even more secular than mine. Not devoid of meaning. Just not locked into one kind of meaning.
Their minds need space to breathe and be curious. To realise that beliefs can be helpful scaffolding, but that meaning lives deep inside them. It just needs stillness and sometimes adversity to appear.
And should my children’s curiosity one day lead them towards finding meaning in the belief in the resurrection of Jesus or in the rituals of Passover, or any other belief system that enriches their lives and harms no one, they won’t find any resistance from their parents.
You may also find this post of interest: