Today is Easter Sunday and I have the beginnings of a cold. I’m sneezing and snuffling and generally feeling sorry for myself in that pathetic way that annoys me. But, its how I feel and I can’t make any better of it.
However, as is so often the case when I feel ‘under the weather’, nostalgia has turned up and taken residence in my brain.
So thoughts of Easters past come flooding into my head.
Being an atheist, I don’t celebrate, observe or whatever it is you do at this time of year. Not in any religious sense, that is. I do tend to lean towards the pagan celebrations; the ‘new beginnings’ and ‘earth awakening after winter’ type of thing. but really, for years now, it has been a case of buying chocolate eggs for the kids and taking part in ‘Egg Hunts’ and such.
But I remember Easters many years ago when I was a child. It is a bit of a cliche to say ” Oh it wasn’t so commercialised when I was a girl ” but it really wasn’t. However we did have our traditions; I’m not sure if they were just our family traditions or if it was fairly universal; but here is what I remember.
We had real eggs; hard-boiled in addition to a chocolate egg. The shells of the hard-boiled eggs were often dyed in pastel shades. I can remember my mother and Nora, our next-door neighbour, boiling them in a pan with onion skins. I have no idea how they learnt this skill and there must have been more to it that that, because the eggs turned pale green or pink and lilac, so I guess they must have added vegetable colouring of some kind. Or maybe it was just the colour of the skins that produced the wonderful mottled effect that I remember.
I don’t remember ever actually eating these eggs. Oh no. But we took them to a local field and rolled them down a hill ! I know ! Crazy, huh ? But it was great fun and there were lots of other kids doing the same thing. We raced the eggs and, of course, there were many collisions and eggs got smashed to bits. You were the winner if your egg was still fairly intact ………………I don’t remember ever winning !
Of course I attended church on Easter day. My Grandmother took me and my sister Gillian. And we wore our Easter Bonnets to church. Oh, not the extravagant creations that are seen in the film “Easter Parade”, nor even the ‘homemade’, fun ones that children make nowadays at school; fashioned from cardboard and crepe-paper flowers. No, these were proper little hats, especially made for young girls. Vague copies of grown-up hats made from closely woven straw. I suppose they are best described as sunhats, with the addition of ribbon round the crown. A sprig of artificial flowers; daisies with yolk-yellow centres, or tiny, starched daffodils paraded merrily round the brim.
I loved these hats and never had to be persuaded to wear mine, but my sister hated hers and tugged, discontentedly, at the elastic that went under our chins. This was designed to keep the hat in place and mine was always perfect, I was such a pain-in the -posterior. But Gill’s hat always looked as though it had gone through a mangle. At the time, I was horrified; but looking back, I love her for that !
We only seemed to have Easter bonnets when we were quite young, but we always got something new to wear at Easter; that was a firm family tradition. I remember various skirts and sweaters, throughout the years; pretty cotton voile dresses too. one year we all received gaberdine macs; heaven knows why !
And I have very fond memories of a pair of eau-de-nil shoes, with the tiniest little kitten heel. I would have been about 10 or 11 at the time and thought the heel was very high; in fact it would have been barely half an inch, but I felt so grown up . I wore those shoes for far too long; ignoring the pinching of my toes and swearing that they still felt ” fine, they don’t hurt at all !”
I was heart-broken when my Mother finally discovered my red, bleeding heels and threw the beloved shoes into the dustbin.
My Great Grandmother always gave us a gift at Easter, never a chocolate egg. She disapproved of chocolate eggs. I received lace hankies; a pair of white kid gloves; a string of ‘pearls’; and sometimes, as she became older and less able to shop, she gave us money …………… half a crown each !!
One year, I think I would have been about 8 or 9, she gave Gill and I tiny hymn books; children’s editions. Mine was bound in red and Gill’s was white and I can picture them as though it was yesterday. I kept that book for years………. well into my adult-hood. But, sadly it was mislaid in one of our many house-moves and I lament its loss now. Not for any religious reason, but because it was one of the few things I still had from my dearly loved Great Grandma.
We always visited my Grandmother and Grandad on Easter day and had Easter lunch with them. This was always lamb or, I suspect, mutton. A huge ‘hunk’ of a leg of the delicious meat. They were always happy meals, pretty similar to the Christmas gathering and we sat sat together and tucked in. We were not allowed to be fussy !
As I grew up and left home these gatherings were few and far apart, but I gravitated back to my Grandmother’s house at Easter, whenever I could. I no longer had the faith; but the time of year still meant something to me. Perhaps a re-affirming of our family bonds; a renewing of the ties that bind.
Now I have children of my own. They are grown-up, with their own families. But when they were young, I tried to perpetuate some of the old traditions and, for a while, succeeded.
But the world moves on and things change. However, I think I did manage to instill a little of my childhood Easters …………… we are all still very close and loving. Families are tied together with heart-strings and ours are still strong.
Happy Easter, however you choose to celebrate !