POSTED: 11 APRIL 2004 - 9:00am HST

A Tradition of Easter Eggs

Computer generated Easter Egg over the Pacific

by Juan WIlson 11 April 2004

My mother knew how to do an easter egg hunt. She did not do a party for twenty kids with dozens od eggs scattered over an acre of lawn. No her idea of an easter egg hunt was to solve a mystery. She created elaborate Easter Egg treasure hunts for an audience of two, my sister Diana and myself.

My mother would hide eggs in our yard in places you would not likely find them by simply running around and looking for them. She would conceal them. Then she would create a series of instruction cards, puzzles, diagrams and riddles that would take you from one egg to the next. My mother had studied calligraphy and had been a draftsperson, so the cards were wonderful. The last card found with the last colored egg would take you to the motherload, the Easter Basket itself.

I never saw my mother working on these cards. I guess she would scout the treasure path a day or two ahead of time. I'm sure she boiled the eggs late Easter Eve. But she she must have gotten up at dawn to get the eggs in place before Diana and I got up expecting the world.

I remember those egg hunts more than any other detail of the Easter celebration. Yes, my mother's mother, Grandma Gracie, could do a great ham dinner, or even better, a roastbeef with yorkshire pudding and gravy. But it was the egg hunts that made Easter for me. Thinking back, I realize that Easter was a very feminine holiday. It was created and maintained by the women in the family. The men seemed more invilved with Christmas... and they owned Memorial Day and July 4th, but Easter was the creation of Mom and Grandma.

I was not raised with a religion and the Christian significance of Easter is somewhat lost on me. As with many Christian holidays, Easter comes at a time of year when pre-christian Europeans had long had seasonal celebrations. Easter came at the height of celebrations of fertility and rebirth at the end of winter.

Early spring was a time when most people had pretty empty root cellars; maybe but for a few molding carrots or potatoes. The first greens coming up would be the first fresh food in a while. A good time to delebrate. Easter was a time of birthing for many domesticated animals too. The eggs and rabbits used today in Easter celebration are traditional representations of sexual productivity.

When viewed as a historic event, the death Jesus of Nazareth appears to be the failure of an insurrection by a charismatic rebel leader against an occupying empire and established conservative religion. His capture and execution demonstrated that the efforts of Jesus were hopeless,his messianic movement a failure. What were his followers to do in the ashes of their defeat? How could the story of Jesus make sense to those who thought him messiah. The spin masters within the movement went to work and made up a new ending to the story.

The new ending required a resurrection and a second coming. It is now two thousand years later. Right from the start the Christian church incorporated an almost sadomasochistic iconography. The symbol of the religion from the beginning has been device of human suffering and execution. The gruesome representation of a man tortured to death is a common theme in Christian art - as epitomized in "The Passion of Christ".

Americans have their own way of adding to myths and legends of others: We make them cute and fuzzy. Just look at some of the lore we have added to Jesus' birth celebration at Christmas; Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. Pertinent? - No; Cute? - Yes.

American Christians have added to Easter as well, the holiday that culminates the torture, death and rebirth of their religious leader. Our contributions: Peter Cottontail, the Easter Bunny, and the Easter Egg Tree.

Before 1985 I never saw an Easter Egg Tree. Then I lived in yuppie Fairfield. Connecticut. It was about that time I saw the first Christmas wreath strapped on the front of a Volvo with greenery twisted through the roof racks. It wasn't long after that the the Easter Egg trees first appeared (probably on the lawn of the owner of that Volvo). I should add that back then Martha Stewart lived in Wesport, Connecticut, the town adjoining Fairfield.

After Connecticut I lived in the snow belt south west of Buffalo. The winters seem to last half the year. When Easter time came around, and we had a white lily in a vase on the table and there was a hint of Colt's Foot was peeking a green leaf through the snow outside we felt truly a blessed.

Blessings to you. Let there be a rebirth of the Earth. May there be peace. May we stop killing.