Are all the eggs found? All the candy eaten? Shoes polished and new clothes ready to go? Is your ham in the oven creating delicious smells throughout the house? These Easter traditions are some I read in an article in a newsletter I receive. The article got me thinking about some time-honored traditions as I was growing up and, hopefully, some similar traditions your family may have.
The earliest Easter can occur is March 22 and it cannot occur after April 25. The date for Easter was set in A.D. 325 by the Council of Nicea. They chose the Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox. Set dates for Easter notwithstanding, I do remember Easter snow. I attended a college in northwestern central Pennsylvania and I have pictures of a 6-foot snow drift outside the back door of my dorm taken as I was preparing to leave for Easter break. That was an Easter for Easter boots, not new Easter shoes!
And while on the topic of new shoes, in the early church, those who were baptized on Easter wore a white robe the entire week as a symbol of their new life. Those who had been baptized in earlier years wore new clothes instead of white robes to indicate their share in the new life of Jesus Christ. Who hasn't, at least once in their life, gotten a new outfit for Easter? More than the outfits, I remember the traditional outdoor Easter picture throughout my childhood. Until my family moved, that picture included the beautiful pink dogwood tree in our backyard. As for the new duds, I distinctly remember a dark blue dress with a matching dark blue, light blue, and white plaid coat. Of course, in those days, all Easter outfits had to be accompanied by a straw hat, purse and white gloves. Top those off with the shiny black patent leather shoes and I was all set. Shopping for Easter clothes was a ritual. With my own children, it was more of a challenge. For some reason, there are rack upon rack of cute outfits for girls but, with a little bit of luck, one rack for boys.
I was never sure what clothing manufacturers thought little boys should wear, but the older the boys got, the harder it got to find something special for Easter.
Eggs are a symbol of the new life that returns to nature at Easter time. Visits from the Easter bunny originated in a German legend. The story was told of a woman who decorated eggs for her children to find during a famine. At the moment the children found the colored eggs, a rabbit was seen hopping away. The children excitedly exclaimed the rabbit had hidden the special eggs there for them to find. Did you color eggs for the bunny to hide? More importantly, did you find all the eggs the bunny hid? Nothing quite compares to discovering that one unfound egg much later than it should have been found. In the late 1500s it was widely believed the bunny laid red eggs on Holy Thursday and multicolored eggs the night before Easter Sunday.
As for the ham, it wouldn't be Easter in my home without ham. There are probably as many ways to prepare Easter ham as there were hams purchased. I simply pierce the skin with cloves before baking. The Native Americans curing of venison prompted the colonists to try salting, smoking and storing for winter the hogs they were raising. The ham was cured and ready for serving when spring came, just in time for their Easter celebration.
Whatever your Easter traditions may be, may you enjoy your day with family and loved ones. Happy Easter!
Sue Sampson is a longtime columnist for The Parkersburg News & Sentinel.