I have vivid childhood memories of dressing in a black suit that was two sizes too small, putting on a clip-on tie that constantly poked me in the throat, piling in the car with my parents, and siblings, and heading to church on Easter Sunday morning. At church, all the men were dressed in suits similar to mine, and the women were attired in long, flowing dresses, and had on elaborate and colorful hats in pink, white, green, or blue. Young girls would all be wearing frilly pink or white Easter dresses, bought especially for the occasion. I would sit quietly as hymns were sung, Bible verses were read, prayers were said, and the pastor gave a sermon on the meaning of Easter. I tried to be a good young man, but I didn’t listen very much, as my thoughts wandered to Easter egg hunts, searching for hidden baskets, having a big meal of ham, potatoes, and corn, and ingesting massive quantities of mouthwatering chocolate. These days, on Easter Sunday, my church looks like a combination of a surfing competition in Malibu, and Walmart on buy one get one free, pajama bottoms day.
I know that times have changed, and what’s really important, isn’t what people are wearing, but that they’re still attending Easter Services. Easter has changed a lot since I was kid. Around this time of year, I often wondered how a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, which is a foundation of the Christian faith, turned into egg-laying rabbits, gigantic baskets full of every candy known to man, and rampaging kids scouring parks for plastic, candy-filled eggs?
As a child, I attended Catholic school under the watchful eyes of sisters of the cloth. The nuns at my school would always remind us of the traditions of Easter, including Lent. It’s a forty day period which starts on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday. During this time you’re supposed to pray, confess your sins in confession, repent, give to the poor and fast. As a child I was expected to give up one thing I liked for the entire forty days, and yes my mom knew I hated broccoli. Most of the time my mom made me refrain from any type of candy. We also had to give up meat on Fridays for six weeks. You were allowed to eat fish on Fridays, but it wasn’t always available. We would usually end up having meatless spaghetti. Only as I got older, did I realize the basis for the tradition of eating candy on Easter Sunday. It’s because, after those forty days of fasting we’re all, half-starved to death, and we desperately need to get our blood sugar levels up.
With all the different Easter traditions, I still haven’t figured out what’s up with the bunny that hides baskets of candy in people’s houses. How does a freakishly large rabbit, tie-in with Jesus and his resurrection from the dead? Did any of you ever see that famous painting called, “The Last Supper,” by Leonardo da Vinci? It depicts Jesus and his twelve disciples having a final meal before he’s arrested. I’m usually very observant, but unless they were eating rabbit tartare, I didn’t see any hares at the table, did you? I even meticulously checked out all the Apostles. Let’s see…….we have Peter, John, Matthew, James, Andrew……….hmmm…..no, I don’t see any Bugs Bunny, Roger Rabbit, or even that Trix character, who’s always having kids steal his cereal.
Have any of you figured out, what’s with all the Easter candy? Didn’t we eat enough for Halloween, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day? Thankfully, it’s another six months until Halloween. By then, I figure I can lose ten pounds of candy-induced fat, and see a dermatologist about this enormous pimple on the end of my nose. Speaking of candy; do any of you remember getting one of those big, delicious, solid chocolate rabbits in your baskets? The things must have weighed at least three pounds, and despite your best efforts; took at least a week to devour? Yesterday, I snuck a chocolate rabbit from my wife’s hidden Easter stash, eagerly bit into one of the ears, and the whole head came off. The darn thing was completely hollow inside! I hate to say it, but not only did I eat the whole thing in under two minutes, but I think the pimple on my nose grew a quarter of an inch.
Have any of you bought some of those “Peeps” for Easter this year? If you don’t know what they are, they’re those yellow, blue, white and pink things shaped like rabbits or chicks that are soft and spongy and taste horrible. Does anyone ever eat them, or do we just buy them to mess with our kids? I looked up the ingredients of peeps, and it said this. They contain marshmallows, corn syrup, gelatin and carnauba wax. Carnauba wax? I could be wrong, but I think I just waxed my car with that. My youngest son for some insane reason has always loved Peeps. He’ll eat dozens of them at one time. I guess that explains why his hair is so shiny, and he’s been sliding across the deck.
There is one tradition I can do without – Easter egg hunts. Each year my mom would take us to a huge field lined with what seemed like an endless sea of kids. I remember one year when I was either six or seven. Every child was carrying, either a paper bag or a little basket, as they eagerly prepared for the festivities. Laid out in the open field were, what looked like thousands of painted hardboiled eggs. Back then, there weren’t any of those plastic eggs, filled with candy or money, or even real chocolate eggs. I will say this – it was tense, man. We were all like coiled springs ready to sprint out into the field, hell-bent on procuring as many eggs as possible. There was always a big guy with a whistle who would signal the start of the madness. We older kids would all lean forward, as we anticipated the shrill, piercing sound of the whistle. I’m not proud to say that if Mother Teresa happened to be in front of me, I probably would have run her down.
The problem was; back then they didn’t have any of today’s rules, regulations, precautions, or safety measures. Age groups weren’t even separated into separate Easter egg hunts. They would put all the toddlers in the front. If you know toddlers, all they can do is waddle around with diapers loaded with poop. They can’t find eggs, so you know what always happened? Yes, the toddler’s mothers ran out onto the field, stole all the eggs, and put them in their kid’s baskets. Me and the other bigger kids were going down left and right as mothers ran us down, knocked us out-of-the-way, and grabbed handfuls of eggs. I once got taken out by a soccer mom who looked like Mean Joe Greene of the Pittsburg Steelers football team, before I had gotten twenty feet. I remember having a nasty bruise on my arm for at least three weeks.
Before I move on to another simple observation; I have one more bit of advice. If you’re out with the family driving around, and you see a sign that says, “For Sale. Cute Little Easter Bunnies and Adorable Chicks;” just keep driving. No matter how much little Suzie cries, don’t stop. I made the mistake a few years ago of stopping. The rabbit lasted about two hours after the cat realized he had a new play toy, and the cute, little downy chick turned into a giant, nasty chicken with a flesh ripping beak, and deadly talons. Just yesterday, I said to my dog, Chase. “Come On buddy, help me out here. I need to mow the lawn. Could you please scare Brutus over into the neighbor’s yard?”
“Woof, woof, woof woof, woooooof.”
“Okay, I know; he scares me too. What do you say I get a baseball bat? It may be lent, but it’s not Friday. Do you know what that means? We can eat fried chicken!”