eating eggs on easter is like feeding a chicken chicken

In ALL, FLORIDA, TEXAS by Stephanie Klein30 Comments

People in church clothes stand on winding lines, breathing into their cupped hands for warmth.  It’s cold in Austin.  45 degrees.  Women are wearing heels and pantyhose, tweed skirts, and polite leather handbags.  Their broaches and their coiffed hair wait outside popular brunch spots.   Bloody Marys with stalks of leafy celery, mimosa toasts, the rims decorated with a strawberry wedge.  Lights twinkle and diners crowd in, keeping warm with bowls of coffee.  There’s not a festive hat in sight.  I love the idea of Easter hats.  I’ve always longed for an occasion to wear an oversized rimmed hat.  Something enormously glamorous, befitting a countryside wedding from Four Weddings and a Funeral.

At Che Zee, here in Austin, there’s a six-foot-something man outfitted in a white bunny suit, complete with a perky cotton tail and hand painted whiskers on his middle-aged face.  I’m waiting for creme brulee French toast and poached eggs served atop crab cakes.  Though, it strikes me now that eating eggs on Easter is like feeding a chicken chicken.  You’re supposed to hunt for them, dye them, tuck them away in irridescent grassy baskets.  Eating them scrambled seems sacreligious.  Isn’t Easter about eating honey baked ham slices?   Martha doesn’t think so.  She serves hers scrambled with gobs of butter and a generous pour of cream in well-rinsed eggshells.  No doubt with diminutive sterling spoons.

I grew up celebrating Easter on a different day than all the other kids.  Usually a week or so later.  Greek Easter.  I never went to church; my father wouldn’t allow it.  And I was thankful for that.  I was scared of church, of the deep voices and hymns.  Talk of saints and an incense that seemed to remind me of ashes and dead people.  My sister and I were raised Jewish, but we celebrated our mother’s holidays with her, so long as it meant never having to say the words "Jesus," "Christ," or anything having to do with "The Holy Spirit" or "Mary."  We never learned to make the sign of the cross with our hand.  I remember asking my Greek / Italian first cousin Vanessa how to do it.  I wondered if I was supposed to bring my fingers to my lips first, pretending to kiss them, the same way I did with a prayer book after it touched the Torah.  Vanessa would show me, using her right hand, moving it from her forehead to her chest, then from shoulder to should.  Or was it chest to forehead, then shoulder to shoulder?  Left to right, or right to left?  I could never remember.  All I knew was I wanted, maybe more than anything else, to be like my older cousin, who was two years my senior and always had the latest Nike sneakers and got all her clothes from a store in Manhasset, NY called Peanut Butter.   I remember making the sign of the cross thinking it was something women did, like coffee.  It made me feel grown up.

As I got older, in high school, my mother took my best friend, who was half Greek and half Jewish, and me to a midnight mass.  It was crowded, so we never made it into the church.  Again, I was thankful, still afraid of the customs and organ music.  It was beautiful though, seeing strangers huddled outside with white tapered candles.  Patrons of the church walked around the block, their candles lit.  We took ours back to the car, then headed to a Greek diner for Baklava.  The next day my mother made a leg of lamb with rosemary potatoes, salty and crackling, splitting open.  We’d each choose a brightly colored hard-boiled egg, then knock the tips of our chosen egg with an egg of a family member.  Whomever had the egg that didn’t break "got good luck for the year."  Then we’d slice a spinach feta pie, where a silver coin had been baked in the batter.  Each slice was reserved for a member of our family, her family, even relatives who lived in different states.  Whomever got the slice with coin was slated for a year of good luck.  It was me one year, though I don’t think I believed much in luck and doubt it changed mine that year.  It’s strange how religious holidays, with all their rules and ceremonies, can create traditions centered on something as whimsical as luck.

I called my mother this morning, to remind her it’s Philip’s 40th birthday today.  "I know that," she said, "I already called your house this morning.  I didn’t know it was a big one though.  I’ll have to send something.  Belated.  You know, a little late."  She was with her mother and sister, Vanessa’s mother.  They’re walking in downtown Stuart, Florida.  I ask her to send my love to everyone, and I realized then how ever since Papoo died, I felt estranged from her side of the family.  I’ve always been close with her niece and nephews, my cousins, and I still think I am, even though we don’t talk as often as I’d like.  We’re close I think because we grew up together, in weekends, with our mothers, who are best friends.  Over summers, playing hide-and-seek in their yard, swimming at North Hills.  And it makes me nostalgic and of course makes me wish I were closer to family, particularly my cousins, and their children.  For Lucas and Abigail, for Easter egg hunts and too much chocolate.  Where I could tell stories to people who already knew the stories, of how my mother once actually hit a bunny with her car on Easter Sunday, which to her was like feeding a chicken chicken. 

Comments

  1. I just dont understand the point of only celebrating the fun parts of two different religions. It sounds super indulgent to me.

    FROM STEPHANIE: Believe me, there was NOTHING fun about YEARS of Hebrew school. And Yom Kippor, itchy tights, dressing up, being quiet… so not a good time. Memorizing my haftorah. Learning how to read Hebrew from the Torah.

    Though really, what's so wrong with celebrating all the fun traditions with your family? What's wrong with being indulgent when it comes to religion, of all things? I mean, that's, for me, what religion is about: finding comfort in traditions, and of course, in foods. I feel so fortunate that I was exposed to both of my parents' traditions.

  2. In descending order of importance, here are my humble comments. First off Happy Birthday SUITOR/PHIL!!! In my family it is extremely lucky to be born on a holiday, Best wishes for the next year in your life. Second, I LOVE LOVE LOVE large hats, I lived for a while in Europe and brought back a passion for the large Chapeaux. For Easter, Weddings, Funerals, Horse Races, JUST CAUSE. I carted back a huge steamer full. To wear them in the states, even with a smile and a great attitude has been sadly considered absurd. Very depressing. Next… 3rd, I love poached eggs on crabcakes, How did you find yours? And last, 4th, I wholeheartedly agree, the magic of Religious holidays is in the routines of our families and the magic that we can find in the traditions we forge. Leave the pious to themselves. The world is bleak enough. Ok, my soapbox is pushed back in the corner. I hope youand Phil had a great first Easter with your bean /bunnies.

  3. Oh your poor mother, hitting a bunny on Easter! I don't think I'd ever get behind the wheel of a car on Easter Sunday again!

    Happy Easter and Passover. It's nice to see those raised Jewish observing Catholic traditions in their own way, and vice-versa. My brother has married a Russian Jew who's as non-religious as he is. They'll raise their kids Jewish, although he will insist that they know what a Christmas tree is all about. Get ready for another set of kids to whoop it up celebrating dual religions every year.

  4. Your comment really disturbed me…being Bar/Bat Mitzvah'ed is a "rite of passage"…i have been Bat Mitzvah'ed myself. Yes nothing in life that is worthwhile is easy!!! It is a sense of accomplishment. You seem like you are annoyed that you had to go thru learning how to read from the torah. That is why i feel it is important for people to marry in the same faith. There are always confusion and problems down the road in raising kids.

    FROM STEPHANIE: Learning to read Hebrew was hard. Giving up Tuesdays and Sundays as a child seemed like work, which it was. It was also, in hindsight, very rewarding. I remember my Bat Mitzvah, not so much the appetizers (though I actually do remember them) but the look on the faces of my family, looking up at me on the bemah (however you spell this). My father, before I began, had tried to ease my nerves. "Stephanie, the good news is, no one in our family knows enough Hebrew to know if you're making a mistake, so if you make one, just hurry up and move on, and no one will notice." He was right, except when I did stumble the Rabbi made a telling face. It was a rite of passage, I guess. But mostly, and much more than that, it made me feel connected to the generations who'd read from it before me. It's why Philip and I plan to send our children to Hebrew school as well.

    I'm not sure why you think it's so important for people to marry within their faith. You say, "You seem like you are annoyed that you had to go thru learning how to read from the torah," and I would ask you to ask any twelve year old how they feel about having to learn it. At twelve, turning thirteen, it's hardly fun. AND sighting THAT as a reason for people to marry within their faith seems strange to me, given that you'd be hard pressed to find a teen who loves religion (any religion).

  5. FRG, I totally agree with you. There is sacrifice in many religions, whether it be supplemental religious school, or fasting, or prayer. It's not always a fun ride, especially through the eyes of a pre-teen, but these experiences are soul enriching in the long run. Tradition is more than food and games, and the earlier children understand that, the less likely they will resent the process of experiencing true religious depth.

  6. Thank you for your response to my comment…I know all about hebrew school. I went to a conservative synagogue where we would got 2x during the week 4-6 pm and then on Sundays as well….so a lot of time spent their!! As far as asking a 12 year old how it feels to study torah-I will ask my son who is studying to be a Bar Mitzvah this Nov. As far as my comment regarding people should marry within their faith i guess you misconstrued what I meant. I didn't mean to associate it with "reading from the torah".
    PS Bemah is spelled Bimah

    Happy Pesach!!

  7. Thank you Mama Dramas for your comment. The earlier that you can expose children to their respective religious schools the more they will appreciate the generations before them that have also participated in the same "rites of passage" or rituals. It is a challenge, yes and i find this with my own children. I feel it is important for them to know about their Judaism and the sacrifices their ancestors made (Holocaust) just to be a "free Jew" in America!

    frg

  8. I am Jewish and married to a Catholic Italian man. We have two daughters (2,5)that we are raising Jewish. He was raised a strict Catholic who drifted from religion as he got older. Before we had children we didn't really belong anywhere. Now after having children and choosing to raise them Jewish we have found a reform synagogue that welcomes interfaith marriages. Many of my girlfriends from the temple are married to men who are not Jewish. We both feel so comfortable there! I think it's so important to raise them one religion but educate them on both.
    Its not as hard as I thought it would be!

  9. Ahhh… religion, like politics (or breastfeeding:), seems to be a topic of much controversy eh??
    OK… forehead, chest, left shoulder, right shoulder. That's Roman Catholic. I don't know about Greek orthodox but I've been to Russian orthodox services and the sign of the cross goes the opposite way… and everything in threes… and the hymns and music I found just,so… different…from going to Catholic mass. Darker, older, more incense-y, like stepping into the past and into some sacred secret.
    I married a fellow Catholic so religion isn't an issue. My children are being raised Catholic BUT, I L.O.V.E. the power, beliefs and values of other religions. Even other sects within Christianity. I send my oldest to a Calvalry Bible church every other Friday with a friend of his who attends that church. I like how they focus on religion with children. I also happened to send my son to a Jewish School for four years during pre-school. He learned to count in Hebrew, had Shabbat every Friday, wore a yarmukle (sp?), dressed up for Purim, and learned many old-testament stories. (Ironically, this Catholic girl has named her kids with old testament names)
    I think it fundamentally boils down to the fact that we want for ourselves, and our children, a place to find comfort and a belief to get us through those times and tests where we can only find the answers in our souls and our God. And I also think God doesn't care how we get to Him, just as long as we do. Oh… the best part about celebrating the best parts of other faiths IS the food!!!! :) I would buy Challah at my son's pre-school so I could make French Toast for Christmas morning breakfast. Challah french toast is the BEST!!!!

  10. Plenty of fun traditions that aren't typically associated with religion originated in religious ritual, Ella. There's nothing wrong with celebrating them.

    If one chooses not to follow a specific religion religiously (ha), then where's the perceived harm in participating in multiple meaningful traditions borrowed from different belief systems? If it's meaningful to the participant, it's theirs to celebrate.

    And honestly, where's the meaning in criticizing someone's whole structure of tradition based on a blog entry?

  11. Our church's Easter egg hunt was cancelled this weekend because of surprisingly freezing weather. Unfortunately, I was Boil-The-Eggs-To-Be-Hunted girl and am now stuck with six dozen hardboiled eggs in a huge bowl in my fridge. The word "egg" is currently making me queasy.

    Deviled eggs, anyone? (Martha Stewart-esque smile)

  12. Happy "Spring"!

    Honestly, if anyone associates trees, presents, bunnies, eggs, etc. with a religion – then they are sadly mistaken. Religion and traditions are completely different. I'm glad you are open to celebrating all the holidays in whatever manner means the most to you.

  13. Happy Birthday Phil and Happy Easter!(better late than never)

    I agree with Colleen on how it doesn`t matter how you get to God but it matters that you get to Him.

  14. Having just watched a movie yesterday called "Jesus Camp", I've been spending the last 24 hours thinking about children and religion – so this post and the comments are very interesting.
    I personally LOVE the idea of parents of different faiths sharing them with their children. Giving them the knowledge of all traditions, including the fun ones, seems like the best way to raise a child. Stephanie, you sound like one of the lucky ones.

  15. Interesting how everyone wants to share their differing opinions of you and your family's traditions. As if you really asked, right?
    My opinion (I know you didn't ask!) is it all sounds fabulous. And I can't get over your mom hitting a bunny on Easter! Ha, so totally something that would happen to me.

  16. Happy Birthday Phil! Best wishes on your first birthday as a dad. I'm not jumping in on the religion thing, but I did want to comment on the cousin thing. I wasn't extremely close to my cousins on my dad's side, we usually only saw each other on holidays. Now one is getting married next weekend, and I have only just begun reconnecting as adults these past few months. It's been fun getting to know my family all over again, but I still feel like I missed out on so much growing up without this connection we have now. I guess better late than never, and I can't wait to see them all again next weekend. I know it's gonna be great, and I can't wait to make new memories with my family.

  17. First, I think it's kind of weird that you would celebrate Easter and not be able to mention "Jesus Christ" or "Mary". Not that you have to be super religious on holidays, but Easter is much more than eggs and candy, so ignoring the mention of what the holiday is really about seems really weird to me. Easter is also very connected to Passover, which I'm sure you celebrated.

    And secondly, midnight Mass is something people do at Christmas. No one has midnight mass at Easter. But they often have an Easter Vigil, which begins at sunset and can last 2-3 hours. And sometimes they have sunrise services.

    As for the cracking of eggs, my family is also Greek and that was always a fun tradition we shared too.

  18. Maggie R. there is such a thing as midnight mass for Greek Easter.

    "But it's not until after midnight mass that the Greeks arrive, streaming onto the streets of Greektown until the early morning hours of Easter Sunday, many carrying candles from church still lit with the flame passed around during mass." –a quote from a recent article featured in The Chicago Tribune. So check your facts.

  19. Ah, Chez Zee's is right down the street from me. Due to the oh-so-fun weather, I opted to sleep in and make egg salad sandwiches for lunch. Haha!

  20. Maggie, I'm not sure how Greek your family is, but like Brianna said, Greeks (and ALL Orthodox, actually) gather right before midnight to celebrate the resurrection at Midnight but passing the flame from the priest all around the church. You're there until about 3AM.

    I'm not religious – I go to honor my father and his family and their memory – but it is definitely at midnight and the very observant Orthodox have been fasting for 40 days without meat, so the next day is all about the lamb roast, just as Stephanie described.

    Stephanie, it must have been strange going to a service like that and being Jewish. Your dad didn't mind?

    FROM STEPHANIE: I don't think he minded, mostly because it was explained to us that we were going to celebrate our mother's holiday with her. So it was less about our honoring a belief and more about making a memory with our mom. Nice to hear from you!

  21. I once heard a joke about a catholic priest and a jewish rabbi who were on a plane flight together. The priest tried to convert the rabbi for most of the flight. Then, at the landing, the place crashed. Both the priest and rabbi walked away unharmed. The priest, overjoyed, said to the rabbi, “I knew you’d convert when the time came, and you made the sign of the cross!” The rabbi said “I wasn’t making the sign of the cross. I checked spectacles, testicles, wallet, watch.”

    Always cracks me up.

  22. As i am studying to be a bar-mitzvah i have also learned how difficult it can be to pursue a requirement. I am disturbed about the comment that Stephanie said she did not enjoy learning the torah and also attending Hebrew school.

    MATT 12 YEARS OLD, DOG

  23. Oh my god frg, get a life. Seriously. I'm a long time reader but first time poster. Even through the whole breast-feeding/bottle debate, I was never driven to comment until you pulled out your child to defend you. Unbelievable…it's a blog. A blog.

  24. Alissa-fyi I didn't have my son post a comment to defend me….he took it upon himself to post a comment. Oh and by the way, I have a wonderful, fulfilling life!

    frg

  25. I think your mixing up the memories of your traditions. Isn't the coin in the pie on New Year's? In the vasilopita? Because it's St. Vasili's feast day? Or maybe the customs are just different in the part of Greece your mom is from? The various permutations of different traditions around the different parts of Greece always fascinated me. It's like the country never fully unified culturally from ancient times.

    Either way – thanks for reminding me of what so special about those days.

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