Sunday, April 12, 2009

Our Family Easter Traditions

To everyone who celebrates this day as Easter or as spring holiday - I hope your day is filled with the spirit of hope, rebirth, new beginnings, and love.

I grew up Catholic by choice - although both of my parents were Christian - so all of the religious traditions of the holiday were a very important part of my youth. Growing up in a very ethnic neighborhood rich with Polish and Lithuanian immigrants (I am half Lithuanian) meant that there were many traditions to be observed and cherished. I remember the yeasty aroma of the egg twist raisin bread as it rose in its bowl on the radiator...or peeling the skins off onions to color some of our easter eggs...the trip to church on Holy Saturday for the blessing of the easter breakfast baskets, with their bread and eggs and kielbasa (sausage)...getting to wear my new easter outfit to mass, complete with a special easter hat...and so many more great traditions... some that I still continue with my children and their children.

The traditions start the night before Easter morning with my husband and I watching The Ten Commandments and coloring Easter Eggs and putting together Easter baskets. Ironically, my husband was raised in a Jewish family, so his perspective of the holiday season is somewhat different than mine, but I am always impressed by his knowledge of Passover and the history of Judaism. He is a wonderful storyteller and so well versed that I love listening to him going into detail of the stories of the Old Testament of the Bible.

Easter morning, the kids descend on our home...Of course there are the Easter baskets for the grandchildren, and the easter egg hunt that brings laughter and scrambling around to make sure all the eggs are found. In the past, I've baked homemade breads from scratch to make baskets full of bread goods for my childrens' family - a symbol of luck that their pantries remain full through the coming year. This year, we treated them to some gourmet bread from a local store, simply because it's a special treat that they can't find in their local stores. We have a "big breakfast" - eggs, bacon, sausages, french toast, pancakes, biscuits, gravy, hash browns,and ham...breakfast has become the traditional family meal for us so that the kids can spend the rest of the day visiting their other families.

After breakfast, it's time for the Easter egg fights. Anyone who has an Eastern European heritage is probably familiar with this tradition! Each person selects a hard boiled egg from the basket of eggs, and in our family, beginning with the two youngest, they "tap" each other's eggs and whoever's egg doesn't break gets to move on to the next person. The process is repeated until everyone has had a chance to participate in the egg fight. My grandson was going strong thru about 5 rounds this year, but then my younger son ended up having the winning egg. The winner gets first pick of the Easter Candy in the family basket. When my kids were younger, I put a bit of a twist on the game and would hide a raw egg in with the hard-boiled eggs. Whoever ended up with the raw egg would be responsible for cleaning up the Easter breakfast dishes (although we all ended up pitching in!). It was fun watching the kids selecting their eggs carefully, seeing them getting older and applying the scientific principles they were learning in school to their selections (yes, raw eggs can be discovered without breaking the shell - and relatively easily, we eventually realized - although there always seemed to be an egg that broke the rules!). I will probably re-start that twist to the tradition in another year or two as the grandkids get old enough to be able to clean up should they get the raw egg!

There is a homemade pound cake lamb with green coconut flake grass - and sometimes a rabbit cake as well! After all the eating is done, I call my mom back in Illinois and the phone gets passed around so that she can talk to the kids and the kids-in-law and her great-grandchildren... and then we spend the rest of the morning talking and playing and doing what families do best - sharing time and love together!

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