The Easter I knew growing up consisted of a false sense of security on Shrove Tuesday with a few sugary pancakes and a squeeze of Jif lemon, if it was still in the door of the fridge since the year before, this quickly transformed into a day of fast on Ash Wednesday and the ritual of getting the ash stamped on your forehead. The shape, size and shade of the ash was a source of great sport for the day at school when we were just delighted to get an hour off lessons for the ash routine while we told our classmates what we intended to give up, sugar in tea was always a poll topper along with jam for those that didn’t get sweets regularly anyway.
This heady start quickly developed into a slow arduous seven week grind as we faced the seven weeks of lent ahead. Punctuated only by Patrick’s Day where only the weak among us broke out and ate sweets, the hardcore Lenten campaigners did not. The climax came on Holy Week when it seemed like we attended mass every day for hours on end. The last supper, the crucifixion, the resurrection the whole lot in one weekend, it was a lot for any eight year old to take in.
Of course the glory of it all was the Easter Egg on Easter Sunday. The hollow chocolate egg which made the journey worthwhile, it made the seven weeks of sacrifice worth the effort. Bring out the violins I hear you say, but save them, I want no applause, there were others, not just me.
Today in what can only be owed to a triumph of marketing over tradition, across Ireland these days children receive several eggs, from parents, from the Easter Bunny, grandparents, aunts, uncles, babysitters, neighbours, friends and possibly casual passers-by. It has become a phenomena in a relatively short space of time and the greatest money racket ever as one week later all the unwanted eggs are melted down and made into unwanted Rice Krispie buns.
The question needs to the raised however, that how in a mere twenty years, has Easter changed so drastically? Is every event in the Irish calendar slowly becoming more and more Americanized? There was certainly no sign of the Easter Bunny in 1980’s Ireland, yes he seems to have emerged from somewhere and today forms part of a child’s view of Easter. The fasting, sacrificing and church attendance seems to have subsided to an avalanche of chocolate eggs. Without direct reference to the Bible, I’m can only assume that Christ didn’t ever consider that his resurrection would be commemorated by overpriced chocolate eggs and candy moulded bunny rabbits. Otherwise the Last Supper would surely have been sponsored by Cadburys. Or at very least the chocolate eggs would instead be in the shape of crucifixes, which would at least relate somewhat to the true meaning of Easter.
The greatest lark of all has to be the alternative gifts in lieu of the Easter Egg, a toy, a T-shirt or cinema tickets. Since when did Easter become another gift-swapping occasion, a mini-Christmas so to speak? And these are from the sensible people among us, those who say, “they have enough chocolate, I’m just giving them a little present instead! When did that start?
Hey ho, we are where we are and going forward, I for one hope to instill the values of the Easter of old in my young. So this year instead of driving them to the giant Easter Egg hunt on the manicured lawns of the local hotel, they will have to walk, all 2,000 metres there, and back! Instead of walking past the slightly more dully wrapped eggs on the ground, they will be encouraged to collect all. Instead of melting down the surplus chocolate, they will be forced to eat every single one of the fourteen eggs each received, not quite the sugarless tea of penance to charm back the luxury of a child’s soul but I’m banking on reverse psychology