Something Else for Easter

Easter, 2012. My little girl’s first words when she awoke this morning: ‘One more day to go’. She’s been counting down for over a week. When the counter hits zero tomorrow she will be going, with her nanny, her great nanny, cousins and more attenuated family to Connelly’s Marsh, for the annual Easter Festivities. ‘We will swim every day’, she tells me, ‘even if it’s cold. And on Sunday we will hunt for eggs’.

Her excitement is infectious. I’ve been looking forward to Easter also, even though I’m not going. Connelly’s Marsh Easters are a custom perpetuated by her mum’s family.

I have more than a few issues with Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and other myths that Grace’s mum thinks are ‘part of growing up’. Are we inculcating kids with a capacity to believe stuff that makes no sense? Are UFOs and palmistry, miracle workers and homeopathy what results if you tell kids that lies are true?

Woody Allen tells a tale in Annie Hall which has no purpose here other than the punch line. A man goes to see an analyst. ‘It’s not about me, doc, it’s about my brother. You got to help him. He thinks he’s a chook’. ‘Well, you’d better bring him in then’. ‘I would, but I need the eggs’.

Grace has a way of dealing with my cynicism about this stuff. ‘I know you don’t believe in the Easter Bunny, daddy, but I do’. I suspect she doesn’t, but she needs the eggs.

Easter. The first Sunday after the first full moon after the autumnal (for us) equinox (except for the fact that the date of Easter is computed using the Julian calendar and it’s thirteen days out, and the equinox is not necessarily on the right day, and the calculation of the date of the full moon is spastic).

Easter. The celebration of our saviour recovering from a (very) near-death experience. One of the most remarkable events of Christ’s remarkable career was being born on a solar calendar and then dying (nearly, and then for good, so far, unless you are a Swedenborgian) on a lunar calendar.

Easter bunnies are fertility symbols, as are eggs. The northern hemisphere spring approximately corresponds with Easter, a time when rabbits breed like rabbits. Our rabbits are pests, of course. It took several attempts to establish a population on the mainland of Australia, but in Tasmania rabbits were already in plague proportions twenty years after white settlement.

Easter, 1990. I was with two friends at the Red Lion hotel, then a rock venue, now an undeserved winner of Australian tourism awards as The Old Woolstore. Don’t think for a moment I’m bitter. After all, MONA got an honourable mention at the Tasmanian engineering awards. Anyway, one of my friends was carping about his inability to meet women. I attributed his problem, and a similar issue I had, to our unwillingness to engage them in conversation. Pressed to demonstrate how such a conversation would take place, and emboldened by alcohol, I spoke to three girls in a group.

One was wearing a large pendant crucifix. I said, ‘If this were yesterday I would be nailed to that cross’. A poor gambit, I know, but my skills with ladies were, and are, limited. One of them, the one wearing the crucifix, gave me a chuckle. And then she gave me a child. A lovely child whom she named Jamie.

Perhaps out of an excess of cadness, perhaps because of the young lady coming to her senses, I had sex with Jamie’s mum only that night and the next morning, which puts me in the unusual position of being able to calculate the gestation period that preceded Jamie’s debut. Jamie is now twenty-one, and I can remember my pale pick-up line from twenty-two years ago. Here survivor bias rears its rational head, I wouldn’t remember lines like that if they didn’t lead to fornication, and then to conception.

Jamie was conceived on either Easter Monday or Tuesday, 1990, the 16th and 17th of April (Easter came late that year, I did not). Between the first of those days, the most likely date of conception, since I was primed by a considerable dry spell before that date, and Jamie’s birthday on January 13th 1991, 273 days elapsed. The mean human gestation duration is 266 days so Jamie was about 87 per cent likely to be born earlier. This is significant because had she been born earlier her 21st birthday would not have interrupted MONA FOMA.

If you’re going shagging this Easter and you lack the decency to commit to basic social niceties like condoms you should reconsider your carnality. Because Easter is a bit earlier this year than 1990, your acts of wanton lust will not impact upcoming MOFOs, but you might have to give future Falls a miss.

Easter, 1972 (approximately). My father was a greyhound trainer. He along with many of his brethren (training greyhounds is a religion, you see) believed that key to making greyhounds try hard, race as fast as they can, is to convince them that the mechanical lure they are supposed to chase is, in fact, alive. To achieve this some of them give a dog a live kill. The procedure: tie a rabbit or a possum to a fishing line on an industrial reel, and allow the dog to chase it while reeling it in. After a few hundred metres allow the dog to catch the sacrificial beast, and slaughter it. On Good Friday that year, when I was ten, I went with dad and a friend to a farm in Sandford, and we tortured and sacrificed a possum. I would like to say that my disgust was palpable, and that it planted the seed of my later vegetarianism. As far as I remember I simply accepted it. Dad, whom I already didn’t trust, told me it was necessary and I must have thought that was reasonable. I also didn’t consider the torture and slaughter of the roast chicken we had (‘we’ doesn’t include dad) the following Sunday, Easter Sunday, that had been raised in a cage with so many others that they had to stand atop one another. And I didn’t consider the possibility that the concealed barbarity, the feast of the chicken, is the most heinous, it being perpetuated as a societal calumny, no individual in the chain accountable, rendering the chain unbreakable.

Easter as a focus of belief seems absurd. Easter as a place-marker for events that shape a life seems reasonable. And Easter as a holiday, as a celebration of values, whatever those values, seems essential.

Happy Easter. May all your eggs be free-range and all your bunnies be chocolate.

-David Walsh

14 thoughts on “Something Else for Easter

  1. I’m relieved that you are posing these questions about our children’s demands for chocolate eggs at Easter in spite of we parents’ current disconnection from the legends of Christianity and the so-called rebirth these eggs used to symbolize. As children, we vaguely understood that Easter eggs were a reward for the end of Lent’s austerity and sacrifice, but its unlikely we were required to give up much. Your lovely account of your emerging childhood doubts prompts my own Easter reflections. I grew up on a farm in the north east of Tasmania and we loathed rabbits, mostly because they were so destructive, but also because in the early 1960s, when we were sick of eating lamb, lamb and mutton dressed as (even more) lamb, we ate rabbit. Easter meant eating lamb again, or more mutton dressed as… So the rabbit was a doubtful, if not rather unreliable symbol in our family’s story of Easter. We certainly ate a lot of them. As a child, I believed my dad was a great shot. When it turned out that my mother was the real rabbit hunter in our family it was a vital adventure of awareness for me. There wasn’t much chocolate around in those days either; some kids ate their eggs all at once, and some like my little sister, kept their egg hidden all year long, eating tiny little whitened segments in secret, at least until her horde was discovered.

    I got over Easter when living in New York in the 1980s, where its celebration usually takes place alongside Passover which to me is a more vivid albeit literal myth of sacrifice and rebirth, or at least redemption, probably because Christianity had become dulled by the repetition of hypocrisy. Which is not to say one religion has it over another in the quest for insincerity, but that the unfamiliar in religious practice is sometimes more interesting.

    In NY, I had a friend who as a teenager, worked in a very posh Upper East side chocolate shop. One afternoon, Jackie Kennedy walked in and took a chocolate rabbit out of the window display. My friend gave chase, screaming, “Stop thief, stop thief!” Jackie just kept walking along Madison Avenue, completely ignoring the audacious kid calling out her name. Eventually, his boss caught up with him and explained that they’d long accommodated the ex first lady’s unusual shopping style by keeping a monthly account for her.

    But here on our rabbit infested island, I now have to drive out to MONA Market to buy not just one beautiful egg for each child, but masses of them and they will end up with a pile of chocolate on Sunday that’s bigger than Texas. At bedtime, they’ll be heaving with excess and wondering, not for the first time, if it would have been better to keep some of their state sized mountain of chocolate for tomorrow. What should I tell them?

  2. Thanks for the easter wishes.
    The wool store over MONA in the tourism awards… …hmmmm…… I smell something there and it’s not coming from your shit-making machine. I recently spent a week in Tassie. Your name cropped up all the way from Launceston to Hobart. Nobody mentioned the Woolstore. Funny that. I’m sure Australian Tourism will catch up soon.

  3. Santa, easter bunny, tooth fairy et al, all fairly quickly become exposed mistruths. Rather than planting a seed for gulliability in kids heads, it’s forwarning that not everything you think true today, will be true tomrorow.

    • I don’t think we know how children perpetuate myths told to them in childhood. However it seems to me that your argument, that we are lying to kids to prepare them for the future, could apply to any set of lies we might choose to tell them. And therefore, in extremis, parents who describe to their children only an honestly held view of reality are mistreating them.

      Surely a better way to prepare a child for adulthood is to discuss with them the complex gradations between true and false, and attempt to give them insight into how we constructed our version of reality?

      • Maybe you and Grace have the ability to discuss rationally the inherent grayness of truth, but other parents/kids may find it difficult. I think its nice in principle but not overly practical. Not really a reason for not attempting it though, i reckon explaining the origins of your belief systems as they become visible to your kids can only be a good thing to attempt. As for not properly preparing kids for the irregularity and complexity of adult life being a form of child abuse, maybe, but it’s a common and perhaps not entirely unavoidable one.

  4. Is the belief in something as unreasonable as the Easter bunny, Father Christmas or the resurrection mean that those who put reason aside find it easier to make acts of faith? Some of the most astounding things humanity have created be it …The Duomo in Florence, The Cistine Chapel are based on an unreasonable premise. Has our modern society’s lack of religious zeal meant that people are more reticent about making acts of faith with each other? And this has lead to a failure of “duty of care” in our communities. If the “faith muscle” is allowed to wither through lack of exercise in our non-religious communities ..do we pay a price?

    • You’d have to better define what “acts of faith with eachother” means and more specifically how the lack of this negatively affects people and societies. If you can come up with something there, then maybe it’d warrant examining say Muslim society to see if they are less negatively affected by virture of their more zealous faith.

      • I am looking for an explanation for the lack of “duty of care”. As our society has become more secular. Where day to day decisions are made on the basis of reason rather than faith. Is this the explanation for society’s failure in this respect. In the past ,did the congregation’s collective belief in an unreasonable story allow those individuals to more easily make irrational actions together. Just to clarify..
        Faith = a belief in the absence of reason.

  5. It was and still is a shame about the Red Lion turning away from it’s role as an important rock & roll pub, but it is good to see it being remembered as such, even if there was a sub plot to the memories. I personally remember it as the site of my last gig.

  6. i told my son when he was old to enough to know he would get presents for christmas that they would come from family and friends. he was told about saint nicholas and gifts for poor children & he was told about the birth of jesus. they were all told as stories, along with stories and myths from various religions other than christianity. he was fine with this. when he went to prep he came home with a small dilemma – other children having told him he wouldn’t get presents from santa if he didn’t believe in him – so he told me he’d like to give the idea that he “might be real” a go that year. and that was fine too. he’s formed his own ideas about trivial things like santa and the easter bunny and the tooth fairy, but he’s also been given a grounded faith that i’m not going to lie to him about more serious issues – or about anything. he’s now nearly 14 and there haven’t been any bumps in carrying out the plan of total truth. it’s not brutal, or abusive, as some parents would presume – once the commitment to doing it is there, it’s surprising how much it makes me think of how i’m phrasing explanations of my version of the world to my son. & i think he’s doing a fine job of working out his own beliefs for himself.

    also – the argument that many gave me when he was young, that by denying him the childhood fantasies of father christmas etc i would ruin his imagination – entirely dispelled – the boy has one of the most vivid imaginations i’ve ever encountered and will in all likelihood become a writer.

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