When I moved to the US seven years ago my family came up with a list of key events and activities that they felt it was important to keep me involved in. The list is long and varied and includes everything from emailing me pictures of monthly summer luncheons at the local cricket club to sending me holly and ivy print cake boards for use at Christmas time. However the most important ritual they perform each year involves a Mars Bar Easter egg, a jiffy bag and a huge postal bill. Last week right on schedule I received my latest slightly melted, largely crushed Mars Bar Easter egg. The fact that only about one sixteenth of it remains uneaten tells you that this particular item is well received each year. I have always loved Mars Easter eggs from the time I was born. Even during the Mars poisoning scare of the mid eighties I couldn’t resist the delicious blend of caramel and chocolate. Sadly Easter in the US is nothing like the ones I knew in blighty.
When I was about 11 my Dad decided that the mudane Holy week services at our local Catholic churches were no longer sufficient and he decided we should travel to older and grander churches in London for the Easter services. To be honest I didn’t ever mind going to Westminster Cathedral as every year without fail the same old lady with her mop of died orange hair and strangely protruding lower lip would approach us prior to the Mass and ask “Are you a family ?” I guess in hindsight it was pretty obvious we were a family as opposed to a touring rock band or a passing cricket team but nevertheless each and every year we said “Yes we are !” and then tried to feign surprise when she asked if we would take up the offertory procession. It was pretty cool as we got to meet the late great Cardinal Hume and get a closer look at the section of wall behind the altar were the marble stops and the black brickwork begins. That was one of the things that always fascinated me about the Cathedral as half of it looked like the interior of a tunnel on the Bakerloo line. The services at Westminster were good as well and were certainly preferrable to the ones at Brompton Oratory where we usually went on Palm Sunday. Most years as I kid I didn’t give anything up for Lent because I always felt that attending one service at Brompton Oratory was the equivalent to 70 years of purgatory. The place was full of interesting characters like the old lady who claimed to be the usurped Princess of Albania. In truth she was probably just a homeless nut job but at least she provided some light relief from the service. The folks at the Oratory took the view that there was no point singing 1 note when you could sing 400 hundred. Why do a sermon that is less than an hour long ? Since when did sermons have to be interesting or the priest fully audible on the P.A. system ? The worst thing about the Oratory was that unlike the Cathedral it wasn’t in close proximity to a McDonalds and we didn’t get to ride the train home, we had to drive.
Easter in the US like most other things has rapidly evolved into something that has more to do with Walmart that Jesus. In the last few years the “Easter baskets” have had less and less chocolate and more and more toys up until the point where my 5 year old daughter was disapointed when I had to explain that Easter was not actually Christmas the 2nd. The chocolate here also tends to come in the shape of bunnies rather than eggs and I haven’t seen any eggs in coffee mugs here which is very distressing for someone whose wife has a habit of dropping one cup on it’s way out of the dishwasher every single week. I hate to buy whole sets of mugs because when one breaks it ruins the the collection. In the UK where my Mum had a similar issue with mugs and dishwasher unloading I at least had a collection of completely unrelated mugs that came in all shapes and sizes from Easter gifts down the years.
Easter Sunday always involed lamb in the UK but I have searched high and low in Gainesville and the nearest I got to a joint of lamb was when a South African customer at the bank offered to give me a real live sheep as an Easter gift. Unfortunately our landlady only lets us keep cats and I wouldn’t really know how to go about turning a wooley lawnmower into a Sunday roast anyway so that was the end of that.
Today we went on an Easter egg hunt which my daughter enjoyed. I don’t recall Easter egg hunts in the UK but the one here in Gainesville involved plastic eggs containing candy which was much better received the one we went to in Alabama which involved actual chicken eggs. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful or anything but when I was a kid if I was sent on a treasure hunt the last thing that would have excited me as a prize was an uncooked egg. Despite everything I really want to have a nice Easter Sunday this year and I am not looking forward to going back to work on Monday since this year for Lent I gave up speaking to people I hate. Come Monday there is a whole lot of folks I will have to start talking to again.