Kelly Ramke Lardin is the author of the children's books Josiah and Julia Go to Church, and Let's Count From 1 to 20 (bilingual counting books in French and Spanish). She holds degrees in French from The University of the South and Tulane University and studied translation at SUNY-Binghamton. She has always enjoyed writing and loves studying languages. She converted to Orthodoxy shortly after marrying her husband, who is also a convert to Orthodoxy. Her journey to the faith was fraught with struggle, but she wouldn't trade it for anything. Together she and her husband are raising their two daughters in the Orthodox faith. This continuing journey still has its moments of struggle but is also a joy. Visit her at kellylardin.com for more information on her books and to read short stories and other writings. She also blogs about her faith, family, and life in Chicago at A Day's Journey. She is available for speaking engagements through the Orthodox Speakers Bureau.
While getting ready for bed on Easter Sunday, my older daughter began to get teary-eyed. After I tucked her sister into bed, she followed me out of the room, hugged me, and whispered, “Mom, I don’t want Pascha to be over.” I understood her sentiment. Growing up Catholic, we said we celebrated Easter for fifty days, but in practice it was forgotten by the following Sunday. I reminded her that for us, the approaching night did not mean Pascha was over. We get to keep celebrating! There are so many traditions, both big and little, for us to participate in on Easter Sunday and for weeks after.
When I converted to Orthodoxy, I missed some Catholic Easter traditions. I always found it particularly fitting to celebrate the Resurrection of the Son with a mass at the rising of the sun. I sometimes get nostalgic for sunrise mass, but I comfort myself with the fun of shouting in many languages in church during the midnight service. Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is risen! Our favorite is Arabic because no one else seems to know it, but we shout it loud enough for everyone.
As a child, I also dearly loved Easter egg hunts. We’d almost always be unable to find one egg, and my Grandfather would usually find it later in the summer while mowing the lawn… This was a tradition I wanted to do with my children. However, we live far from family, and Pascha day offers no good time for egg hunting — everyone is too tired and just wants to eat! So, when my older daughter was 18 months old, I colluded with our matushka to initiate the first of our now annual Pascha egg hunts. We extend our celebration and make it convenient for everyone by holding it on St. Thomas Sunday. We use plastic eggs to avoid my childhood memory. The first year we filled some of the eggs with candy and the rest with icon buttons of the myrrh-bearing women and the Resurrection. Since then, we’ve filled them with candy and golden coins. The kids get to trade the coins for small gifts, like Bible story coloring books, guardian angel pins, prayer ropes, and Easter-themed bubbles and stamps. On the Sunday night of Pascha, I was able to remind my daughter that we would be doing the egg hunt in a week. She would have something to look forward to during the long week at school!
Of course, no Pascha celebration would be complete without actually dying some eggs. We have tried over the the years to dye red eggs in Orthodox fashion with many years of failure or near success. I know it’s possible because my first Pascha was celebrated at St. Tikhon’s Seminary in the presence of perfectly red eggs. I used toxic Greek dye on my first attempt and had to leave the eggs in the dye for nearly 24 hours to obtain the desired red. However, by that time the eggs were inedible because so much toxic dye had seeped through the shells. Next, I tried onion skins, yellow first, then red. Both gave me brown eggs despite many articles promising red ones. I even polished them with olive oil, hoping the shine would make them look redder.
This year I had some beet water that I saved from a Lenten cake recipe. It stained my hands so much that I thought for sure it would have to work on eggs! Alas, I was wrong. The eggs were a pale, ugly brown. I was tired of failure, so I grabbed the red food coloring leftover from a birthday cake and dumped it into my pot of eggs. I swirled it around and put the pot in the refrigerator while we went to Friday’s un-nailing Vespers. My husband was sure I would have light pink eggs, but on our return, I had red eggs! They weren’t perfect; there were some spots because of the bottom brown layer, I suppose, but now I know how I’m dying my red eggs next year. Some years we don’t do red eggs at all, and we do the typical American colored eggs. The children, at least, enjoy both even though I may get frustrated at my failures. As long as the eggs don’t remain white, it’s all good to them!
I’ve always put out Easter baskets for the kids, too. Who hasn’t? But this year I learned of a new tradition! My mother always lined our baskets up on the fireplace, so we could devour their contents without waking her or my father. During the Agape meal Sunday morning, a friend told me that her parents used to hide their baskets, and she and her siblings would have to do a basket hunt. Her parents delighted in making it difficult, even hiding one in the dishwasher once so that it took all morning to find. I tried this with my kids this year. One approved, the other… not so much. I had fun, though. Later, I learned that this is a fairly common tradition.
When we woke up on Monday morning, I reminded my daughters of the most fundamental way we would extend our celebration. Our daily prayers would be augmented for weeks to come with the singing of “Christ is risen from the dead” and “The angel cried.” My girls will, of course, continue singing these hymns much to the chagrin of their father long after we’re supposed to stop, too. They’ve been known to sing them around the house up to Pentecost even! In a similar vein, I like to listen to “The Lord of the Dance” and “Was It a Morning Like This” during the day while we’re doing other things at home. I should discover more Easter-related songs and create an “Easter Carol” collection for Pascha-tide. Suggestions?
Bright Week breakfasts are a celebration in themselves — Pascha bread, Pascha cheese, bacon, and hardboiled eggs, until we run out! This is probably our favorite week for breakfast. Not being cradle Orthodox, I looked through many recipes for both bread and cheese when I converted. I had heard tales of ladies spending all of Great and Holy Friday waiting for bread to rise and missing services as they dedicated themselves to baking Pascha bread. I knew I didn’t want to do that, so I was thrilled when I found a very manageable recipe that would not require an entire day, and I found a simple Pascha cheese recipe, which sadly is not firm enough to shape in a traditional mold, but it is so delicious. My bread choice has begun making inroads in our parish. One friend tells me that her family is “disappointed” in her because she now uses my recipe instead of the family recipe because it is so much better.
When we’re not busy feasting or praying, we also do various crafts during this time. This year, I was lazy and bought a basket and lamb project from Target that we will do on Saturday. Other years we’ve done things like painting Ressurection silhouettes . Finally, most of our bedtime stories are selected from our many Easter-related books. Soon, we’ll get a copy of The Red Egg by Elizabeth Johnson to add to that collection.
These a some of our traditions, new and old. I am always looking for more ways to celebrate this joyous season. I would love to hear about your Pascha traditions, as I’m sure others would as well.
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