Saturday, 11 April 2015

Family traditions

Family traditions


I woke up at the crack of dawn on Easter morning. Mr Chateauneuf and the boys were still asleep so I crept downstairs for a cup of tea.
With a steaming cup in front of me, I sat in the conservatory watching the sun trying to break through the thick cloud and enjoying the tranquillity of the morning. As I gazed across the garden, something about it jogged a memory…
Easter was always a big deal when I was growing up. Not just because dad was a church leader and Sunday church attendance was compulsory; but because of all the happy memories mum created for us in her kitchen.
She would start with baking a few days before Easter. It was always traditional Eastern European Paska, (from Hebrew pésakh passover), which are a brioche base loaves usually baked in a round tin.
Because back in those days we didn’t have proper baking tins, we would save up any metal tins we opened (anything from tinned fish to jams) – the wider variety of vessels the better. That meant different bread sizes and so much more fun.
Once Paska were baked mum would ice them. To this day I have no idea how she made it, but it was the most delicious icing ever – running down the sides of each Paska and topped with hundreds and thousands. We couldn’t wait to eat them.
Colouring eggs is where my brothers and I were heavily involved. Mum used the traditional onion skin method and our job was to find as many interesting leaves as we could in the garden. It didn’t matter what plant they came from, as long as they had an unusual shape and were small enough to fit on an egg.
She would press a leaf against a raw egg and then wrap it into a piece of old tights, holding the leaf in place. Once they all were wrapped, she would gently place them into a dark looking, bubbling mixture (it was onion peel that had been boiled for a while which gave the liquid a dark colour) to cook the eggs.
Once they were ready, fished out and cooled down we were allowed to help mum unwrap them. The leaves left a perfect imprint on the egg preserving the original colour of the shell, while the rest of it was stained the colour of the onion mixture. It was such a joy to find the shapes of the leaves we had found decorating our plain eggs...
I don’t know how long I sat there staring into the garden but my tea had gone cold. In the haze of nostalgia I considered colouring eggs with the boys but decided against it, in fear of staining Mr Chateauneuf’s pans.
As I looked at the mountain of chocolate Easter eggs on the kitchen worktop we bought for the boys, I couldn’t help but wonder, what Easter memories would my boys have? What would they remember and tell their children about?
And watching two cats running around the garden, I had a thought. Maybe our boys won’t have as many memories about Easter as I do. We don’t bake - we buy hot cross buns. We don’t decorate eggs – we get chocolate ones.
Living in an ever-changing world we slowly forget our traditions, dismissing them as old and stale. We want everything immediately and ready-made; we require an instant response – waiting for anything is not an option; the world without Internet has become an ancient history, and pen and paper have been replaced by emails and electronic massages.
My phone beeped and I automatically reached out to check it. And as I swiped it to life to check my emails, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that with dismissing the past and traditions, we are losing a part of ourselves in the process; and the urge to peel some onions suddenly became bigger than ever.