M is a 20-year-old black female who is currently double majoring in NGO’s and Social Change and Communications at the University of Southern California. M grew up in Boston, MA but currently resides in Los Angeles, CA. M primarily speaks English, but she is also fluent in Spanish.
Me: Does your family have any fun holiday traditions?
M: Um. We are aggressive when it comes to Easter baskets. My mom is really happy that my brother aren’t home for Easter anymore because, I think she though she could like stop when I like reached 16, and she had the Easter baskets like out on the table, like you know, like we always do the hunt and then go to church, but she left them out on the table and we came downstairs and we were very upset and we told her she had to hide them, so she did, unfortunately very aggressively. And we didn’t even find them before church, so we had to go, we still didn’t have our baskets, and then it took us another hour and a half to find them when we got home. She was really annoyed. she was like, you’re ll adults you don’t need these, and my sister was…my sister to be fair was only 12, so she was like I am not an adult at all, like I want mine hidden. Then when my mom hid hers, my brother was like I’m only 14 and she was like ok. Then I was like, you can’t hide theirs and not mine. And then that’s when she was like, alright, these bitches… Yeah.
M talks about an annual family tradition of her mom hiding their Easter baskets and candy for her and her two siblings. Their mom thought that when they reached a certain age, that she could stop hiding the eggs, but the children all wanted to keep the tradition going. There was a sense of maturing and distancing from old childhood memories and games that the kids did not yet want to let go of, and so they continued the tradition until they moved out of the house. Not only was the Easter basket hunt fun for the kids, and kept their childhood spirit alive, but it was more time spent with siblings bonding and working together to find their baskets. They will likely carry on the tradition when they have children as it meant so much to them growing up.
Informant Bio: Informant is my mother. She was born in West Virginia and spent her childhood moving around the country, eventually settling in Massachusetts. She was exposed to many different traditions as she moved around the country as a child and still carries some with her to this day.
Context: I was interviewing my mother about traditions, stories and rituals she remembers from her childhood.
Item: “Growing up in the Kentucky hills, Easter celebration is special. Everyone dresses up in beautiful new spring clothes; the girls wore hats and white gloves. First we went to church. As a child it seemed to take FOREVER. We had to wait for the service to end, the socializing after the service to end, AND THEN the good stuff started. We got to go to my grandfather’s house. He hid Easter eggs all over his yard. He had a HUGE yard and he loved to watch his grandchildren running all over frantically trying to find the most eggs! We got a new basket to hold our eggs each year. Also, my grandfather always gave my grandmother a chocolate rabbit as a gift! Also, she didn’t like chocolate; but, it was his tradition, he always did it, and they laughed about it each year”.
Analysis: Easter seemed to be a very religious event for the adults but not for the kids. Like Christmas, it seemed to bring people together (but to not as great an extent). Easter also served as a way to usher in the changing of seasons, with the wearing of spring-type clothes, hats (for the sun) and white gloves (a southern tradition, but again showing the coming sun, brightness and purity that spring brings).
The grandfather’s house serves as the rendezvous point for the entire family, showing the prominent and important position that elders held in Southern families. The inclusion of eggs and an egg hunt is prevalent throughout many Christian cultures and seems to define the whole experience for the children. This may have served as a way to blend tradition and religious context with fun in a way that would reinforce the message about Jesus Christ while helping the children have an enjoyable experience and make memories after sitting through the lengthy Church service earlier in the day.
“So, my mom is an artist, she’s a painter, and my dad did, um like a lot of writing and stuff, he’s like an English dude. He’s American. Anyways. Um, for Easter, we would, we would have Easter Egg hunts, my sister and I. And um, it started off, we’d come, we’d come downstairs and there’d be these Easter eggs, and you’d open it, and it’d be a scrap of paper that would be cut in a weird shape, and on one side would be like, a part of a drawing, but you don’t know what the drawing is, and on the other side, would be, um, a clue. A poem or a limerick my dad made. That would lead you to, it would be a clue to like, find the next egg, in a different part of the house. And so you’d read the clues and try to find each egg, until you, you finally find the basket. And each of these papers, its the poem on one side and the drawing on the other, and once you got the basket, you’d have all the pieces, you assemble them and you tape it together, and then you’d flip it over and it’d be, like my mom would have, um, she’d uh, she’d have drawn like an Easter themed drawing, like one of them was like me from my senior yearbook photo, but with bunny ears drawn on, and she, um, also drew like the Scream, but with like bunny ears. It’d be a clever take on Easter themes.”
This tradition interests me, because it takes the candy, which is usually what Easter is about for kids, and makes it secondary. The riddle clues the source’s dad wrote are almost a sneaky way of making Easter Egg Hunts educational. It is also a way for both of the source’s parents to pass down their love for the arts to their children, and it worked, as the source never mentioned candy once when talking about the Easter Egg Hunt, she remembers her parents for being artists, and taking time to create something for her and her sister.
“So, in my family, holidays are a big deal, and we are not very religious one way or another, but we do, um, partake in several, I guess, Christian holidays, and Easter is one of the big ones. Um, however, we have this Jewish friend, who, um, had never experienced Easter before, um, and so, she, we decided to invite her to Easter one year so she could experience her first ever Easter and so she came over and um, we did the typical things like dyeing Easter eggs and having Easter dinner. But, we decided to twist our traditions to uh accommodate for her Jewishisms. So she told us about this tradition she used to practice as a child. It’s like this little stale piece of bread, it’s like matzah, and you hide it. She used to do this as a child. It’s called the afikomen. So, yea, I guess it’s a Jewish tradition to hide the matzah and be like, hey, kids, go find the afikomen. And whichever little Jewish lad finds the afikomen gets a reward.
So then, we decided to kind of mix the two traditions because finding an afikomen is very much like finding an Easter egg, so, um, my parents, along with hundreds of Easter eggs, hid an afikomen, and whoever found it got twenty dollars. We, of course, all expected the Jew to find the afikomen, but the first time it was my brother, a non-Jew, who found it. So now we do this every year… we hide an afikomen with the Easter eggs.”
The informant’s conflation of two different religions’ traditions is an interesting example of how folkloric traditions can blend together and change. The informant’s family found a common thread between the traditional Christian practice of hunting for hidden eggs on Easter and the traditional Jewish practice of hiding and finding a piece of matzah on Passover. In an effort to make their Jewish friend more comfortable and to learn about Jewish culture, the informant’s family blended together these two traditions.
However, the informant’s family took the search for the afikomen out of context. Traditionally, the children search for the afikomen at a Passover seder, and there are multiple reasons and explanations for this practice. Some say that the tradition of hiding and searching for the afikomen is an effort to keep the children awake throughout the seder, which can be a very long, traditional meal, sometimes lasting for hours. Searching for the afikomen can keep the kids occupied while the adults conduct the seder. Another explanation for the purpose of the afikomen is that seeking the matzah symbolizes future redemption for the Jewish people. However, in the case of the Jewish Easter egg hunt, the afikomen is used merely as a symbolic gesture— a lone Jewish artifact hidden among plastic Christian relics, but, ultimately, meant to serve the same purpose as the Easter eggs (you find something and you are rewarded for it.)