Thursday, April 5, 2012

Musing On Childhood Easter Celebrations


Easter is only a few days away. I'm going to post a piece on Easter thoughts that I wrote a few years ago. It's about the Easter holidays of my growing up years--a memory piece that will go in the book of family stories. Have you got one about Easter in your family story book yet? This might be a good time to muse a bit and get started. Meanwhile, read about my Easters of the 1940's.

Easter Thoughts
By Nancy Julien Kopp

I’ve been thinking about the Easter celebrations of my childhood years in the Chicago area during the 1940’s. When Easter fell in March or early April, we donned spring dresses and coats to walk to church in sharp north winds, even a little snow on occasion.

On one of those bitter cold Easter mornings, I had a new aqua-blue spring coat and hat that I’d looked forward to wearing. Mother told me it was much too cold to wear it. “You have too far to walk to church. You’ll freeze,” she said.

I begged and begged. “Please let me wear it. I’ll wear a sweater underneath.” Tears slipped from my eyes as I waited for her to give in. They were genuine, not a ploy. Wearing that new coat was a monumental need at that moment at age eight.

Mother relented, but I did have to wear the sweater I’d proposed underneath my lightweight, pastel-colored coat. I think I was very glad to have it as my brother and I headed to church to hear the Easter story once again. My parents never attended church
with us. Theirs was a mixed marriage—Dad was Catholic and Mother Methodist, and neither ever gave in to the other. But we kids all attended the Methodist church and Sunday School. Dad polished our shoes every Saturday night so we’d look our best on Sunday mornings. He buffed them to a high shine and lined them up in the living room.

The day before Easter, we dyed eggs in glorious colors. Coffee cups filled with hot water, a dye tablet and a splash of vinegar covered the kitchen table. We arranged the eggs on a big platter with artificial grass as a nest. The Easter Bunny would hide them while we slept that night.

The Easter Bunny usually brought us a few chocolates, jelly beans and a new comic book. He also hid the brightly colored eggs in our living and dining rooms. What fun it was to discover the decorated eggs, one or two of which we always found in Dad’s shoes left out overnight.

Later in the day, aunts, uncles and cousins joined us for a special dinner. Mother usually fixed a leg of lamb or a big ham, glazed with brown sugar and mustard, cloves inserted in the scored top. Many side dishes weighed down the dining room table-- scalloped or mashed potatoes, two or three vegetables, a jello salad, homemade rolls, pickles, olives and pickled beets, and a springtime dessert of some kind, cream pies, berry pies, or a cake with whipped cream frosting. The aroma of all these good things filled our small apartment.

When we were all too full to move, it was time to do dishes.. No dishwashers, but all the women pitched in and they were finished in no time. Maybe not all the women. I had one aunt who always announced she needed to use the bathroom as soon as the cleaning up began. Off she went, and she never appeared in the kitchen again! The clatter of dishes and the chatter of women filled the tiny kitchen. My cousin, Carol, and I were drafted at an early age to dry the silverware, a job neither of us liked. We hurried through our task so we could walk to the park to play the rest of the afternoon.  Occasionally we finished our Easter celebration by going at the movies. We sat transfixed at the fabulous musicals starring Betty Grable or some other glamorous star.
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The rebirth of springtime flowers, trees and bushes still symbolizes the meaning of Easter for me. Christ’s resurrection created a rebirth for all Christians, and as He taught us to love one another, I also think of the love of family as part of our Easter celebrations. It isn’t only the ones of my childhood but for today, as well. We will be spending this Easter holiday with our daughter’s family, going to church, having a celebration dinner, and being together. Not so very different than all those years ago.










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