Easter was celebrated with an Easter basket for each of us, hidden in an easy-to-find place, and filled with candy in the shape of eggs, bunnies and chickens.
My favorites were those little yellow marshmallow chicks which you had to eat soon after taking them from the wrapper or they would get hard.
Once I ate one of those huge chocolate-covered eggs that are filled with a heavy, very sweet candy in one sitting and I got sick. I never did that again. For years afterward I wouldn’t even take a bite of one. That’s what happens when you have too much of a good thing, especially early in the morning.
One of my favorite childhood photographs was taken the Easter of 1947 when five of us posed for the camera with our new Easter outfits. Chet, Bill, Art and I wore soft hats–most men wore the fedora then. My brother Al was too little for that hat, and the stork hadn’t yet brought brother John and sisters Dot and Gwen.
The five of us were baptized that morning in the Congregational Church in West Medford. The photo I like was taken outside the church. There’s another one inside.
I was the only one that stayed with the church. By the seventh grade I went alone. I loved the Easter hymns-they were exhilarating, like Spring. I’m glad I didn’t think too much about the words and what they meant. I’m glad I was free to feel the meaning.
It would be years before I learned the theology of Easter, and the roots that Easter shares with Passover…and the Crusades, Inquisitions, and the tragic history of Christianity.
The ancient legend says that God sent the angel of death to slay the first born of the Egyptians who held the Israelites in bondage, but passed over the homes of the people of Israel. I do not recall any mention of this in the Congregational churches I attended; no mention of the relationship between Passover and Easter.
We raised our children with Easter baskets, though we weren’t big on getting new clothes for Easter. Carlyn enjoys the Easter basket tradition and the egg hunt. Like Susan and Jonathan, she doesn’t connect those traditions to religion any more than any of us connected Santa Claus with a theology of Christmas.
I had to leave the Congregational Church once I started thinking about the theology behind Easter. It’s not that I don’t appreciate a good story–the myths and legends handed down from our ancient forebears. It’s just that I saw people, including my own minister, who took them as literal truth, or so he said.
I have no idea how or whether you celebrate Passover and Easter, but I do hope you will celebrate the Spring, renew your Spirit, and read this letter like the poem it’s meant to be.