My family’s annual Easter tradition was to go camping by the beautiful Snowy River, nestled in the Australian highlands between Victoria and New South Wales. I’d spend my Easter days sitting around bonfires, my feet in the dirt and my face stuffed with chocolate eggs. With the lens of hindsight, it was my absolute favorite holiday – above and beyond Christmas.
Christmas was glitzy, action-packed and decadent. It was too much of a pressure-cooker situation, fraught with the possibility that one or more relatives could have a nervous breakdown. My clan’s Yuletide conflicts had nothing to do with any complex family relationships or on-going feuds, but rather they were self inflicted.
My mother once made a six-course Christmas lunch that, among other things, included a dish of lobster linguini (she bought whole lobsters, boiled them and pulled the flesh out herself) and poached peaches (my mum is terrified of soft peach fuzz, absolutely terrified. That she even touched them was a Christmas miracle.) Christmas was always about how far my family (more specifically my mother) could go to make things special.
After all of her hard work, I’m sure Mum would die to hear this: Easter was special because we didn’t really do anything. There were no multi-course meals, no party dresses and no obligations.
My brother and I would just sit in our tent wearing grubby choc-covered T-shirts, talking about what we could burn in the fire. Our parents would read their books or sleep in the shade, and beans on toast was considered fancy fare.
Bathing and brushing your hair was optional. And providing you were wearing your bathers when venturing away from the campsite, clothing was optional too.
My brother and I were convinced that the Easter Bunny existed only in the Snowy River region. Sure, people in the city got chocolate eggs too, but we knew that was just marketing hype – like mall Easter Bunnies. We knew Mr. Bunny was really an outdoorsman who didn’t care much for city slickers. He bounded through the Australian bush delivering chocolate to all of the semi-naked hippie types who crossed his path.
Yes, Easter was special for us bush-dwellers. I miss the easy togetherness and gorging myself on cheap supermarket chocolate. I haven’t eaten an Easter egg in years – which is a shame because Easter egg chocolate tastes just so much better than normal chocolate.
In fact, I think I’ll bring some Easter traditions back this year (sans playing in the dirt with my pants off). Find out where those eggs are hiding, gather the troops for an Easter egg hunt or indulge in a long Easter brunch.
I’m not sure if the Easter Bunny has time to hop from outback Australia all the way to Beijing, but maybe he’ll make an exception for his biggest fan.