When I was a kid, I vaguely remember getting Good Friday off from school. I don’t think this lasted beyond first or second grade. I never had any idea why Good Friday was good, I was just glad to sleep in and go play instead of going to school. Since spring in Colorado is reasonably nice (compared to, say, Minnesota), I remember them as mostly lazy, warm days, when we had the Easter Bunny to look forward to on Sunday. Saturday was a day to dye eggs, and to get that vinegary dye on my fingers.
My parents didn’t stick to candy or eggs as Easter surprises. They hid eggs for my brother and me in the furniture in the living room, but not outside – we lived on five acres, there were a lot of critters scavenging, and an unfound egg might actually be an egg that had been absconded with. So we had our hunt on Sunday mornings before breakfast (we were too excited to wait) and then we got our special presents.
Easter was like a Christmas Lite, but it followed the same form – small presents first, then the Big Present at the end. I don’t remember what those gifts were like in some years, but most years, my dad gave each of us a new kite. Then we would go out to the pasture if the wind was strong enough – it often was – and try them out. They were usually those kites you get at the drugstore, thin plastic stretched over balsa wood, and they were usually the two-wing kind (with an eagle or a vulture on the plastic) rather than the four-sided classic shape, since the two-wing was easier to get off the ground. The tradition even survived a disastrous year when Dad had tried a special kite, a yellow inflatable thing that proved remarkably hard to get off the ground and nearly impossible to keep in the air.
That was Easter for us. And I don’t remember when I learned that Easter was actually a religious holiday. I think a lot of parents thought of us as little heathens for how little religious education we had, not that I lived in anything remotely resembling the Bible Belt. We just didn’t say grace before meals or go to vacation Bible school or go to church on Sundays, and a majority of people at that time did, so we stood out. Digression: I remember a woman who briefly babysat both of us (there was a gap between when we came home and when our parents got home, and they didn’t want us to be latchkey kids) and who was horrified to learn that we didn’t even know what “grace” was, never mind say it before lunch. I still remember the self-righteousness with which she said “in THIS house, we say grace.” The message was clear: My parents weren’t raising us the right way. I stopped liking her that day. Maybe I was in second grade, but I hadn’t fallen off the turnip truck the day before. The year before, maybe. 🙂
Anyway, I’m not even sure when I first heard the Resurrection story and connected it to Easter. I would guess it was in junior high. By that time, of course, the egg hunts had stopped, although we still got Easter candy and my mom always made a good dinner. Today, since Easter moves around, I’m often ambushed by it and only realize that it’s Easter when I see that the YWCA is closed on Sunday. (How do you tell when someone’s not especially religious? When they’re annoyed that the gym is closed this Sunday!)
Last year was actually the first time I ever went to church on Easter, I think. If there was another time, I don’t remember it. I went to a church where the pastor talked about the Resurrection in terms of new life and change instead of specifically the Bible’s account. He likened the period of death before the Resurrection to fear, and said to all of us, “Cast away those grave clothes. You don’t need them any more.” I really liked that message, and it was finally a meaning that I could relate to rather than simply a story about a man who came back to life.
To this day, though, when I think of Easter, I think of kites, not Christ.