My father was a promoter of holidays. Each holiday had a specific tradition, an Irish Catholic blend of the secular with the religious. He had created a built-in audience of nine children, and for years the median age at my house was somewhere between 5-9 years of age.
The Easter tradition at my home was a Easter basket hunt. The Easter Bunny himself was responsible for delivering, and hiding, an Easter basket filled with chocolate eggs, jelly beans, and large molded chocolate bunny for each child.
I should mention that sustaining belief in all holiday traditions was of primary importance.
One early spring, when I was feeling the rumblings of adolescence, I had the audacity to dispute the existence of the Easter Bunny. My sister Colleen joined me in the heresy.
“Those that believe…” my father warned us ominously, “…get.”
That Easter Sunday, I woke to the sounds of the younger brothers and sisters scurrying to find their Easter baskets.
I had no trouble finding mine. It was in plain sight….a small basket with two black jelly beans. The tag on the basket read: “For Colette and Colleen”. Underneath was the scrawled message:
“So, you don’t believe in me?”
We were horrified.
We heard the other believers announcing their victories…”I found mine!”
We saw them feasting on chocolate eggs.
We saw others continue to hunt.
The rules to our Easter basket hunt were simple:
- If you found someone else’s basket, you said nothing;
- Baskets were hidden on the first floor only;
- There were degrees of difficulty in finding hidden baskets; hiding places could include hanging baskets under coats in the front hall;
- Trading candy was permitted, but cheating younger siblings was not allowed.
While the day wore on, Colleen and I kept up a brave front, but we were miserable.
“Well,” my father joked, “the EB must have heard you.”
Late in the afternoon, there was a small commotion…someone had found another basket, but was not talking. Spurred on with this hope that there could still be a basket for each of us, we renewed our efforts in hunting. There were a few sly looks, a few hints, and Colleen located her basket on the way down to the cellar…a previously unused location.
My basket was finally located in even more remote territory…the cellar itself.
Once all the Easter baskets were located, we sat down to our ham dinner, which coincidently is when my sister Peg resumed her practice of hiding her unwanted ham slices behind the radiator. That was not part of holiday magic, but it was her tradition.