Easter has become a bit of a non-event in our little family. For the last few years, we’ve been away, usually in Bali. It hasn’t always been that way, at least not in the family I grew up in. Our easter, or the ones I remember, usually involved a ridiculously large number of eggs hidden around the house and in the garden, a pairing off into teams, where one member holds the spectacularly festive white plastic bag and points out eggs that they spot, while the other, kindly goes and fetches said eggs. In the original version of the game, it’s all very pleasant, and everyone has a lovely time collecting eggs, trying to best the other teams and come out the victor with the large chocolate bunny prize. Over the years, the besting got a little more savage, the game a little more rough and tumble, there may or may not have been tears, and if I recall correctly, one year the large chocolate bunny prize was claimed early and may or may not have lost its ears. That may have also been the same year two of my brothers decided that anything in the kitchen was fair game and emptied the biscuit tin and an assortment of other household goods into their plastic bag.
But all of that was beside the point, because the main point of easter, beyond the celebration of spring – even though it was autumn, and the thing about Jesus coming back from the dead, is that after all of the easter eggs are sorted and divided equally between all the players the real game begins. We open the trading floor, and the eggs are traded at prices determined by want and need. A simple supply and demand issue. The Wolf of Wall Street wouldn’t survive a minute in our house.
So it was always a little sad for me, that my husband never wanted to participate in the games and instead booked our annual holiday at this time. Some years the family rescheduled easter, that way people could make the most of the public holiday and still celebrate the festivities. Slowly though, life got in the way, and the whole thing kind of faded a little. Since having kids though, I’ve wanted to celebrate easter and all of the crazy shenanigans it has become to include. I want it to be something they grow up with too, just ideally without all the mass-produced confectionary masquerading as chocolate. My husband doesn’t really care, ‘whatever makes you happy, my love,’ he says. Sweetheart, that he is. So this year, given that this would be the first year we would all be away, somewhere chocolate won’t melt before our girls have a chance to even find them, I thought we might create our own little tradition.
Dutifully I pinned a bunch of things on Pinterest, and spent a great deal of time, in between the unpacking, sorting and the rearranging of the house. I bought trays of eggs to decorate, ordered fructose-free chocolate bars and bought a bunch of fillings so that we could make our own eggs. The girls had the easter weekend off from school and visions of us making chocolates and decorating eggs danced through my head.
We’re not a particularly religious family, so easter never really meant much more to me than that time of year where we could eat chocolate till we felt sick. So, not being religious, I wasn’t sure what I wanted the holiday to mean for us as a family. I knew I didn’t want it to be just a celebration of confectionary and chocolate, and given my whole anti-fructose, anti-palm oil, anti-child labour in cocoa plantations, I wanted the chocolate we consumed to be more thoughtful, hence the hand-made chocolates using fructose-free chocolate. I also found a selection of eggs and filled them with small toys and games and chalk and things other than chocolate.
I read blogs and researched Oestre as a celebration of Spring, and a way to connect with the rhythms of nature. This would be our first Easter, where the season actually made sense.
In Australia, Easter occurs in Autumn and none of the imagery fits. It’s still warm. Trees are just beginning to lose their leaves, the robust growth of summer is slowing, and everything is beginning the slow preparation for winter, for closing down, closing off, moving inward, resting. It’s a weird time to celebrate new life, new growth, or newness of any kind – for anything other than the apples and pears, which are usually just coming into season. But this year, all around us, spring bulbs were popping up, little bursts of colour amidst the cold and the grey. When the girls and I rode home from school, the long green grass lining the canal was dressed in purple crocuses and white snowdrops. A week later daffodils and jonquils sprang up, like the sun, which was just starting to remind us of its heat. We cycled past a woman sitting on a wall, her eyes closed, face upturned. A little further on, two men sat on a green bench, chatting, their faces aglow in the soft light. Kids started appearing in the parks. A group of boys dodged the two kids making the transition from balance bike to peddle bikes, as they scrounged up logs to add to the fort they were building in amongst the trees. A little boy, with blonde curls, was hauling sand up with a pulley system to the platform where he stood, filling his bucket. My eldest looked at me.
‘Sure, go on,’ I said. ‘Just ask him if you can play,’ I added when she hesitated. The boy didn’t speak english, she didn’t speak dutch, but they figured it out. My youngest climbed up and over the climbing igloo, swinging precariously from the top. All around me, life was budding. It was hard not to want to celebrate. At the market, pots of bulbs were being sold, I bought three pots and used them to decorate our table.
We were also still at the start of own new beginning, and that too was something I wanted to celebrate.
Despite my best intentions, we spent the weekend at the market, cooking, going to the park, and just hanging out. We were all a little exhausted. The eggs I’d bought to decorate, lay forgotten in their trays. And the girls were too tired and irritable to make chocolates, or I was.
I made the chocolates the night before Easter Sunday, and filled the little plastic eggs I’d bought years before – before I’d realised I didn’t do plastic, and before I’d discovered the really beautiful wooden eggs you could get to fill, only now I was stuck with the plastic ones because throwing them out just created more guilt for having been so bloody wasteful – with some cute handmade wooden stamps I’d found at the market, pieces of felt fruit for their kitchen, story dice and other bits and pieces I thought they might like. I hearted all the beautifully decorated eggs I saw on Instagram, lamented my disorganisation and resolved once again that ‘next year’ would be the year we decorate eggs, and instead scrambled them and served them up for breakfast with bacon and avocado. Our eggs may not have been pretty but they were damn tasty.