Why the True Colors of Easter for a Southern Family Aren't Just Pastel
It's not all about dyed eggs and baby blue smocks.
Like many, the Easter memories of my childhood center around my grandmother’s dining room table, each time covered in a sheet of plastic and topped with a rainbow of colored dye in cups. Earlier in the day, we little ones would have gathered in her kitchen to make miniature chocolate Easter bunny cakes. She would have let us decorate our own with frostings of all different colors and taken a picture of our globby, smeared masterpieces for her scrapbook. Between the fun, the old-school Catholicism in her would come out to remind us the real meaning of Easter.
The colors of Easter, we learned, weren’t picked just to match the blooming flower beds and the smock dresses Southern mamas order for church. Many of them go back hundreds of years and also have significance surrounding the reasons we celebrate Easter. White for purity and grace, not just the bunnies. Lavender for the remembrance and penitence of Lent, in addition to plastic eggs. Pink for new beginnings and eternal life, instead of just candy-filled baskets. Red for the blood of Christ, as well as fresh tulips.
But for me, Easter also bursted in colors decidedly uglier.
It is in the dulled silver of my grandmother's bunny cake tins, the mustardy yellow of the Durkees my other grandmother plops in the deviled eggs (her secret ingredient), the murky brown my brother's Easter egg would turn out after putting it in every color of dye, and the turpentine green of a smashed boiled yoke after the dog interrupts the egg hunt for a snack. Though not near as whimsical and sweet as those pastels, these are the other true colors of Easter, shown when a big Southern family gets together.
I could say the same for the sounds, with angelic resurrection hymns changing tune into belly laughs at the table and the happy hollers of cousins reunited. Or even the smells, going from the smoke of spiced incense and dusty wooden pews to the aromas of pineapple-pinned glazed ham and gooey macaroni and cheese.
Every family has their own colors, sounds, and smells of Easter. It doesn’t matter if we eventually grow up or at times we’re tested by hardships that make Easter and its meaning feel different. Comfort can always be found by those looking for it, especially at the dining room table covered in plastic and lined with colored dye.
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A Southern family that celebrates Easter together, stays together. That much I know.