From the time I was five years old until well into my teens, this is how Easter morning went:
First of all, find the basket. This usually happened before my parents even woke up. That was pretty easy, since it was always somewhere in the living room. Not so easy was eating only one or two candies.
Next on the agenda was church. Although we went to church every Sunday, Easter meant something new to wear, either a new coat, or a new dress, or a new hat. I grew up Catholic, and in the mid 1950s through the 60s and into the 70s, Catholic women and girls always had their heads covered in church. The hats were often quite elaborate, and Easter bonnets were the prettiest of all, loaded with silk flowers and bows in pastel colors, maybe accented with some mesh veiling. And when I was a little girl, we also wore gloves. And I usually had white patent leather Mary Jane shoes with white cotton or nylon ankle socks. So elegant! Of course, we were there to worship, but the distractions were so pleasant.
After Mass, we went home for breakfast. Catholics didn’t eat before Mass, because it was disrespectful to take communion after a meal. On Easter we always had colorful boiled eggs, which I loved to decorate but hated to eat. Luckily, there was also something sweet, like Italian Easter bread brought home from the bakery where my father worked. And, of course, some more candy from the basket.
After breakfast, it was time to plead with my Daddy to take us to Asbury Park (NJ), to a wonderful amusement park, a virtual paradise for kids, with a scrambler and a ferris wheel and a carousel and a swan boat, little cars to ride, and little speed boats that went around in a circle. Until I was old enough to date, the only time we went to Asbury Park was Easter Sunday, a tradition that I think my parents were sorry to start. Once the precedent was set, however, I insisted it continue.
By the time my own children were born, we lived too far away to visit Asbury Park (and its unfortunate decline was beginning). Though no longer Catholic, our celebration still included worship (and Sunday school with special activities) and Easter baskets and maybe a new article of clothing, but no Easter bonnets.
Now our children are grown. No more Easter baskets. But the day still begins with church, and our focus is solely our Savior. Hallelujah! He is risen indeed!
What Easter traditions did your family have when you were a child? What Easter traditions do you have today? I welcome you to comment below.