“Don’t ask me about our traditions for Easter”, I grumbled when I met
Francesca. “I’m still angry”.
A few hours ago I had had the annual Easter-present discussion with
” As my Easter-present I want …” he started.
I intercepted immediately “We don’t do Easter-presents”.
“But …(fill in the name of his friend who gets one) always….”
My son has friends for all situations. The friend that goes to bed
late at night, the friend who gets icecream every day, the friend who
is allowed to play Nintendo ad libidum, the friend who doesn’t go to school when
Rhamadan ends. Why doesn’t he mention the friend who doesn’t get
sweets for six weeks during Lent.
Traditionally, for my mother, Easter was the day summer started. Therefore, after Easter, we could get rid of the ugly, scratching handknitted woollen knickers we had to wear in winter. As a child, I never really understood the logics behind: sometimes Easter was early in March and our egg hunt took place in deep snow. Sometimes Easter was late in late April and we could have fried the eggs on the hot tarmac. Only as an adult, at last, I came to understand what these
traditions are for: to reduce the amount of daily discussion on how things are done
from 100 to 10.
As I’m writing this I listen to the radio: “What do you eat on Good
Friday?” the reporter asks random people on the high street.
“Rollbraten-rolled beef,” they say, or ” we barbecue”. My ex-catholic
soul is shocked. I can’t even remember what we ate on Good Friday,
probably nothing, as in catholic tradition, the last day of Lent should be the day of
strictest fasting. Instead, I went to church twice: to the catholic
mass with my father, to the protestant service with my mother. Both
were equally long and tedious. I accepted this as my part of the
seasonal suffering, and looked forward to Easter Sunday.
This joyful day always started with two hardboiled, hand-dyed eggs and an Osterzopf, a sweet cake made of yeast dough. We
children got an Osternest, an Easter nest, filled with sugar-,
fondants- and chocolate eggs. Then we went to church – a pleasure this
time. The choir greeted us with a powerfull “Christ ist erstanden“,
the priest wore his golden cloth, the mass servants swang heavy
incense burners, and we children felt that we were once again allowed
to laugh and play.
Later, the egg hunt took place in my uncles´garden, where he had to hide 25 eggs
for the pack of kids in our extended family. During the search, he
always managed to let fall a few extra sugar eggs that sprinkled the
grass like the a Haensel-und-Gretel-trail.
In the evenings, we gathered in front of the TV to watch the “Passion
of Christ”, a three-evening-in-a-row miniseries. And on Easter Sunday, we equally fascinatedly watched the Pope saying “Urbi and Orbi”.
Today, roasted lamb for dinner has become part of the Easter
tradition. Way back in my childhood, sheep were extremely rare in Germany. They
existed only theoretically, as part of a going-to-sleep ritual:
Schäfchenzaehlen-counting imaginary sheep jumping over a fence – one,
two, three …
My first real sheep I saw when I was 21 and worked on a sheep farm in
New South Wales. The other farm hands soon learnt not to trust me with
the mustering: counting sheep after sheep jumping through the gate –
one, two, three….
But this is another story.