Easter was only ever theoretically about religion when I was a chiddler. Sure we had wall to wall indoctrination when it came to the significance of the most important Catholic period of the year, but it didn’t matter there were more important things for us as wildlings of the street.
In school the Christian Brothers started beating the religious festival into us as soon as Christmas and St Patrick’s Day were behind us. We had real fake palm leaves in church on Palm Sunday and with only a week to the big day we were already so full of the holiness that we were fit to burst. Stations of the cross, mass for mass’s sake, confession and buckets of guilt because Jesus died on the cross for us.
The brothers made it seem very personal as though I’d personally been responsible. Me! Little me! For Feck sake I didn’t even kill spiders. But oh no, we were all guilty. Then again, wasn’t that the whole point of religion back then, especially us poor auld Catholics. Guilt! We spent lent feeling guilty about the poor starving black babies in Biafra and collecting our pennies for them. We sacrificed our favourite things, nearly always sweets because that was the hardest thing to give up. If you managed to sneak in a crafty black jack or two, the guilt would nearly overwhelm you. It was so bad I’d have gone to a mid-week confession to cleanse my soul, if it wasn’t for the fact that it would make me look suspicious!
Lent took its toll. We were fully withdrawn from sugar but the addiction hadn’t gone away. Holy Thursday, Good Friday, processions in the street, all the shops closed it was serious business back then. My auld fella would complain about the fish-only malarkey on Good Friday. As far as he was concerned, dinner wasn’t dinner without a big lump of red meat on your plate.
Mid-term break really fecked you up. The myth of an Irish summer was still too far away for a guarantee of any sort of good weather. The chances were that rain would keep you housebound for the duration. By the time Easter Saturday came along, I would have driven myself half-demented staring at the collection of chocolate eggs sitting on the sideboard.
We didn’t have much back then but when it came to Easter eggs, I had plenty of lovely aunties and they all got us an egg. I had twelve eggs one year and so did my sisters and brother. It was an unholy gluttonous feast of chocolate. Sugar porn for the soul. Given our Lenten abstinence from all things sweet, I was only short of developing a twitch. I stacked them high and then re-stacked them. I often sat there in a zen like trance, just staring at them. Every detail of their demise was worked out. I knew which one I’d eat first, which one I’d keep to last, and how I would go about their destruction. My sister was closest in age so it was doubly important to our sibling rivalry that we kept our eggs separate.
“MAM!! She’s making her eggs touch mine!”
It was a very serious matter. Each egg held the secret inside, a small pack of Smarties perhaps, it didn’t matter. One year I waited until I was alone, a near impossibility in our house and then burgled the boxes, carefully opening the foil at the back of three eggs, pulling them apart and sneaking out the goodies inside to gorge on in secret in the cubby hole beneath the stairs.
Then Easter Sunday would arrive and Mam would put us through our final paces. No eggs until after mass. RRRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHH! No eggs after mass until after breakfast… FOR CRYIN’OUT LOUD!
Finally egg time…But wait, only one before dinner…WHAT THE FUP! Of course I know now what she was trying to do and it worked to a large extent, but eventually she’d run out of reasons for us not to sit down and gorge on the brown, sticky sweetness that had tempted us for weeks. Ah happy days.
Looking back to that time, I connect very deeply to the little man I once was. The notion of God and chocolate are strangely entwined in my head and as I sit here typing I can see a rather large Easter egg winking at me from across the room, bringing me back home to those simpler times…so if you’ll excuse me…there’s something I gotta take care of…
Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The woman who never wore shoes, Larry Flynn, Bad Blood and Little Big Boy
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