I never really think of Easter as a holiday. I know it is; at least for Christians. There are traditions associated with it; at least there were when I was a kid. I remember coloring eggs. I enjoyed doing that but the fun was diminished by the knowledge that, when finished, they were still hard-boiled eggs which I have always loathed.
Easter usually meant there was a new jacket to wear to church; purchased at Robert Hall. My family was Southern Baptist. In my experience, Baptists always dressed up for church and Easter was like Project Runway. Men always wore suits. Boys always wore sport coats, usually plaid. Woman would always wear hats.
Church in those days was always an inconveniently long affair and it was even longer on Easter Sunday. I was always jealous of my Catholic friends who could go to Mass for an hour and be done with it. Southern Baptist services lasted all morning and, unless your family was a member of some kind of Satanic cult, involved returning to church in the evening for more of the same. In between, there was always ham, scored in a diamond pattern with pineapple rings and whole cloves. Some people also used maraschino cherries but my grandmother disapproved. “We’re not that kind of ‘showy'” she’d say, though I suspect she just disliked maraschino cherries.
On the other hand, Baptists knew how to sing. Easter was a time to rejoice so the hymns were more upbeat. My favorite Easter hymns were “He Lives” and “Up From the Grave He Arose”. As hymns go, I don’t think they’re particularly spiritual, but, except at Christmas and Easter, Baptist hymns tended to be a little dark. “The Old Rugged Cross”; “Amazing Grace… saving a wretch like me” . These are not cheerful toe-tappers. The Baptist churches with African-American congregations seemed to have better music but this was the early 1960’s in Southern Illinois coal country. A church was more likely to be integrated with Martians than African-Americans.
As an adult, long since estranged from what has become known as Evangelical Protestantism, Easter is more often about brunch than church. The ham is unchanged.
I still remember all the words to “He Lives” and “Up From the Grave He Arose” but I am more likely to be humming Irving Berlin’s “Easter Parade”. When I hear that song in my head it is Bing Crosby’s voice from Holiday Inn. Somehow this version seemed more in keeping with an Easter holiday tradition. Besides, it’s Judy Garland. She’s an icon to my people.
I hope everyone finds themselves in the rotogravure today.