Easter falls at an odd time of year here in the Great Southern Land. Instead of being filled with green growth and the tweets, cheeps and bleats that herald the coming of spring, we’re starting to feel the first cold snaps of autumn. The pagan seasonal rituals that morphed into the major festivals of the Christian calendar are turned on their head here — it’s an Up Down Funky World, to quote Miss Malaprop (with apologies to Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars for her latest mondegreen). Not that we mind: we have our own traditions and ways of making Easter relevant, despite the seasonal imbalance, and they don’t all involve The Bunny.
Now, I’m not one to bang on about matters of religion — what you believe is your business, what I believe is mine — but here are a couple of the things that have made Easter special, in the true Bruce McAvaney sense of the word, for us this year.
Topping the list is our inaugural family outing to the Royal Easter Show, giving our girls their first taste of what happens when carnies and country folk collide. We wandered through a whirl of colour and light, taking in the giant fruit pictures (all Centenary of ANZAC themed this year) and the intricately decorated cakes before moving onto the animals: the cows and bulls, the goats and pigs, the dogs and cats. The kids had their first look at dressage and competitive woodchopping, tasted their first fairy floss, bought their first showbags (the Frozen bag for Miss Malaprop, while my Marvel Girl naturally chose the Avengers Assemble one).
While The Bloke went in search of the bratwurst and sauerkraut hot dog stall he frequents every time we go to the Show, the girls and I found a shady green space to relax near the Sydney Olympic Stadium, which neither of them had ever seen before. I found myself reminiscing about the old showgrounds at Moore Park before they were revamped into Fox Studios, remembering crowded laneways and redbrick pavilions where you could get separated from your parents in the crush faster than you could say “Bertie Beetle”, but knowing full well that getting lost at the Easter Show was a rite of passage for most kids growing up in Sydney during the 1980s. As I eyed the wrist bands displaying my mobile phone number that my children had been tagged with upon entering the Homebush showgrounds, I couldn’t help but think how much times have changed — probably for the better.
Speaking of changing times, the second tradition we upheld this year is a relatively new one for us: attending the Easter Hat Parade at Marvel Girl’s school. Not surprisingly, the Easter Hat Parade is exactly like it sounds: a parade of all the kindergarten children wearing Easter hats they (or more likely their parents) have created. Miss Malaprop was suitably impressed by the various bonnets from her vantage point on the sidelines, but even she knew that the main event came after the Parade: the drawing of the near-legendary Easter Raffle. First Prize in the Easter Raffle is usually so big that the box of chocolate and soft bunny toys is nearly impossible to carry, and the name of child who wins it is repeated reverently for years to come.
This year, Marvel Girl didn’t take home the Big One, but she did end up winning fourth prize, a box stuffed so full of chocolate rabbits and eggs that I was forced to explain that The Bunny doesn’t bring quite so much on Easter Sunday to kids who have been lucky enough to take home such a huge haul. What did please me, however, was the selfless generosity Marvel Girl displayed having won such a big prize: she gave away about half the chocolate she had won, and shared the rest of it with the family — even giving Miss Malaprop the egg in the Wonder Woman box she had been coveting since the second she saw it.
But then, not to be outdone, it was Miss Malaprop’s turn to surprise me when she requested that we make an Easter Tree. Her reasoning, of course, was that Santa knew where to put presents at Christmas because we had a Christmas Tree, so wouldn’t it be easier if we made the Easter Bunny an Easter Tree so he would know where to put the eggs? We spent a delightful afternoon finding a suitable branch, crafting the decorations, and covering ourselves in glue. Seeing the look of pride on her face when she displayed the results to Marvel Girl and The Bloke was reward enough for me, but hearing their excited whispers outside their bedrooms on Easter Sunday morning before they charged down the hallway to share the experience of checking beneath the Easter Tree was equally heart-warming.
So what else has made our Easter special? The Bloke would probably say that getting to surf four days in a row would top his list — but that’s where living in an Up Down Funky World comes in once again: even though the air temperature is dropping rapidly, the sea temperature is still wonderfully warm. For me it has been curling up with a hot cup of tea to re-read the Tales of the Otori, Lian Hearn’s wonderful series set in an imagined Japanese inspired world. But it has also been getting to sleep for an extra hour, since Easter has coincided with the end of Eastern Daylight Saving Time, and getting to offload more junk, since Council clean up is on too (and many of you already know how I feel about that).
There’s a big southerly due in this evening, one that’s set to blow the chill off Bass Strait up the eastern seaboard. But right now, Easter Monday is sunny and warm, and another trip to the beach is ripe for the picking before the sea temperature starts to drop off too. It’s an Up Down Funky World, but it’s a good one.