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From My Window

Issue Date: April 13, 2022

Easter!

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,



**********

Easter is the cornerstone of the Christian faith, but like Christmas, it is accompanied by various traditions or cultural practices that have little or nothing to do with the religious observance.  (The word "Easter" does not appear in most Bibles, with the notable exception of once in the King James Version.)  Most scholars believe the term "Easter" became associated with the resurrection later in Christian history.

To small children, Easter is associated with other things.  For some who will attend church or a formal family gathering, it is flouncy, pastel colored dresses and hats for little girls, uncomfortable and leaving their skinny legs to freeze in normal Wisconsin spring temperatures.  For little boys it is tiny suits, sometimes with ties, and shiny shoes that pinch their feet and make them complain.  (Toddler boys, too young to defend themselves, end up in light blue shorts with suspenders so their legs can freeze too, but at least they look cute.)

All this finery is soon smeared with chocolate or grass stains, or maybe both, in the families that observe Easter egg hunts.  It is easy to speculate where this tradition originated.  Farm families, and even those who lived in small towns in the old days, would have some hens for eggs, and laying ramps up in early spring.  The hens free to roam and find their own food like to find good hiding spots to begin a clutch of eggs for incubation, and the children of those families would be given a wicker or wire basket to go "hunt" and retrieve the eggs for the kitchen.   Kids LOVE to hunt eggs, the fact the eggs are colored or hard boiled has nothing to do with the fun, it's the search that provides the entertainment.  Going to get the eggs was one of the few chores I had as a child that I enjoyed, and I'd walk out to the hen house barefoot through the minefields of chicken manure very happily.  (You aimed to step on the dried-up ones and tried to avoid fresh ones.)

Now most egg hunts involve candy in plastic eggs; and many children also receive an Easter basket.  When I was little the "baskets" were shoe boxes we covered with construction paper and decorated.  We'd fill them with cello "grass" and the bunny would leave us some chocolate, jelly beans, and Peeps along with a few colored hardboiled eggs.   I  liked the taste of hardboiled egg with a side of chocolate, the flavors seemed to mesh well when I was little.  Now, not so much. At Garfield elementary school, (6 grades in 4 rooms,) we made Easter baskets out of rinsed-out l/2 pint milk cartons and filled them with grass.  While we were at recess before spring break, the bunny would visit and leave us a handful of jelly beans in each basket. 

In general, traditional Easter candy gets by on novelty and cuteness; the vast majority of it is marginally edible, way worse than Halloween or Christmas holiday candy.  It's all about shapes that evoke the season and bright colors; jelly beans, marshmallow eggs covered with chocolate, those nasty rock-hard malted milk eggs covered with chalky speckled coating and of course, the oversized boxed hollow chocolate rabbits and chickens.  The chocolate used for these shapes is normally low-grade; but kids don't care.  For them, it is all about eating the head or ears off.  Taste is a secondary thing.  No other candy can cause the polarization of "Peeps," with many naming them their least-favorite Easter candy.  I am obsessed with them, but I don't eat them; I just like to look at them.  My sister's horse Tarby loved them; no wonder; like jelly beans they are almost 100 percent sugar.

We learned the hard way to put our baskets up high after the initial pillaging was over, as the family dog liked chocolate too ?? and it can be toxic for some dogs.  Then there was the cat problem ?? indoor cats like chewing cello imitation grass, and some will actually consume it, leading to at least one vet visit for a family cat to have a wad of Easter grass removed manually from the end of her digestive system.  All were horrified at the description of this procedure but the vet seemed to find it routine.  Luckily now you can buy paper "grass" which is much less likely to cause such nasty problems.

There will be cakes shaped like rabbits and Easter baskets, decorated with jelly beans; probably a ham, and side dishes traditional for each family.  I strongly prefer rabbit cakes to actual baby rabbits sometimes gifted at Easter; rabbits can live five to 12 years and require daily care like any other pet.  It is easy to predict that shelters will receive a wave of unwanted domestic rabbits starting just a week or two after the holiday; a couple of years ago someone dumped a couple dozen beautifully marked domestic rabbits in a city park close to my house because they apparently couldn't get rid of them any other way.  The Humane Society trapped the survivors and promoted rabbit adoptions for months.  We also had domestics hopping around our Oklahoma home ?? I kept calling the owner, who made an anemic effort or two to catch them and re-confine them, but they kept reappearing, much to the joy of the local hawks.  Dumping domestic rabbits outside to fend for themselves is just like dumping cats and dogs the same way.   A stuffed rabbit toy is a much better choice!

Easter marks the end of Lent for those who practice the Christian faith, so this tradition of goody overindulgence marks the end of self-denial; mirroring specific traditions marking the end of periods of fasting and abstinence common to the other great faiths of the world.

Happy Easter and happy spring to you, however you chose to observe the day; time for rebirth, renewal, and rejoicing.  Get in the spirit, eat a jelly bean or two, even if you detest them.  In case you forgot, the green ones are particularly revolting.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address:  JanieTMartin@gmail.com.


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