Easter Egg Hunt

No matter where we have lived in the world – and the places have been many and various – Easter Sunday has always meant an egg hunt. The first Easter that we had children, our oldest son was nine months old. I ‘hid’ a chocolate egg on his high chair tray. He still took about five minutes to notice it. As I write this, he is nearly twenty-four and living twelve thousand miles away. I had to send him his egg this year but still secretly wished I could be there to hide it for him.

Watching our eight-year-old run around the garden this afternoon in the brilliant sunshine, skirmishing with his teenage sister whenever her count exceeded his, I thought again about the nature of tradition and its place within a family. As someone who tends to be driven very strongly by emotions – an INFP for those who like Myers-Briggs – I have many times been guilty of trying to control traditions so that they replicate my childhood experiences exactly. Only in this way, runs my subconscious reasoning, can my own children experience exactly the same pleasures that I did at their age.

And this, I have grown to realise, is nonsense. Any pleasurable experience is, by its very nature, fleeting. As soon as we make an attempt to pin it down for posterity and impose too much tradition and restriction on it, we lessen it. As we moved from country to country, it used to bother me if we couldn’t find Cadbury’s eggs. I had them as a child and I thought my children should have them too. In Florida it took a sixty mile trip to a Butcher’s shop in Miami to get hold of Cadbury’s chocolate. Best not to delve too deeply into that one. On that occasion maybe I was justified. Hershey’s chocolate has always reminded me of the dog treats we gave to our friends’ puppy at Christmas. But I doubt my toddler sons would really have noticed the difference, or cared.

In New Zealand, Cadbury’s tastes different, because the climate dictates a higher melting point. Again, none of the children really noticed. Stranger to us all was the fact that Easter was in the autumn. In Australia, a British friend in Queensland put her children’s eggs inside thermos flasks and made the children dive into the swimming pool to retrieve them. In Queensland the eggs would have melted if they had been hidden in her garden the way we always hid ours in Canberra. She did what worked and that was a lesson to me.

Here in Denmark, where we have spent so many Easters over the past decade, we can’t even buy Creme Eggs and are stuck with the Easter dragees that none of us like. So this year I threw tradition to the winds and bought a large jar of Quality Street to hide around the garden instead. I am finally in the place where I understand that the meaning of a tradition is in the joy it creates and not the structure in which we choose to enclose it. I am not saying that I am quite ready to celebrate Christmas on the 24th December. Some traditions die harder than others. But I do put an almond in our ris à l’amande and whoever gets it receives a marzipan pig. I am now ready to meet the Danes halfway.

Quality Street in a Copenhagen garden, waxy Hershey’s kisses in a Florida apartment, odd tasting Cadbury’s hidden in the trunk of an Auckland feijoa tree or under our giant eucalypt in Canberra. Finally, I get it. Despite many years of trying, I never managed to replicate the Easter egg hunts of my childhood, nor the Christmases, nor the birthdays. Now I don’t even try.

The magic of an Easter egg hunt is not in the kind of confectionery we use. It is in the appearance of usually rationed treats, the excitement of the chase, the fun of hunting with siblings or friends, the spring sunshine if we are lucky. My children had just as much fun today as I did at their age. And I watched them scrambling up trees and under the trampoline, wrestling for the purples and the pinks, simply thankful for another Easter memory to add to the joyous stock we have amassed over the years.

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4 Responses to Easter Egg Hunt

  1. What a beautiful post! I have a baby who has just turned one and I hope in the future to be able to create for her the types of events you have just described. Are you sure you don’t want to adopt me? It sounds like a lot of fun! And yes, I couldn’t agree more; I am a great believer in you make your own traditions. Nothing stands still – as long as enjoyment is being had, that’s the name of the game.

  2. rjwhittaker says:

    Thank you so much. I’ll adopt you with pleasure. I have five so, hey, what’s another one? I hope you do make wonderful traditions for your daughter and you both treasure the memories. I remember mine saying to me once that I always brought the magic but Dad made it happen. Few of these traditions would have made it past my scatty brain so I definitely credit him too.

  3. TheStoryTree says:

    Seven years ago, I took my husband to St Peter’s in Rome with great excitement. I wanted him to wander through that huge cavern built for the faithful and pious and stare up at 3m tall golden cherubs that clung to the walls with unbelievable lightness. I wanted him to feel as awed as I had twenty years earlier. Instead, at the hands of a new Pope’s ideals, we were guided around the basilica between tall black plywood barricades, told where to go and how long to linger, as St Peter’s had become a ‘working church’. There was no wandering freely. The grandeur was hidden and diminished, and I was moved to bitter tears. I had wanted my dearest, who had been raised in a faithful family, to be astounded and touched by what he saw, and I was gutted – until I saw his face. He, too, had tears in his eyes – but his were ones of joy.

    Our memories can never really translate the wonder that we once felt, but in the attempt of sharing them, we create special memories all of their own. Thank you for reminding me of that.

    • rjwhittaker says:

      I had forgotten that the sharing of memories can in itself be special. Thanks.

      As long as they don’t become a burden to others but a joy.

      And I work on that daily at the moment. I am about to publish a novel about exactly this – When Winter Comes. It was highly cathartic to write.

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