I think I’ve mentioned this before, but a majority of my clan is Catholic. Thus I find myself visiting my family for their Easter celebration. Now, I used to be an active participant. As a child, my mother woke us up singing either “Peter Cottontail” or “In Your Easter Bonnet.” We would find and then dig into our Easter baskets. Each year, it became more and more like Christmas – gifts, gifts, and more gifts. We had hard boiled eggs for breakfast, put on new dresses and hats, then went to an atrociously long mass. Easter Sunday service was always the longest and most boring to me, even with the increased pomp and circumstance. On a couple occasions, it was two hours long! After that, we visited grandparents and had other family members visit for dinner and MORE EASTER BASKET MADNESS! Oh we were spoiled… As I got older, I would argue with my sister about whether or not we would watch The Ten Commandments. She hated it. I wanted to watch it because of my growing fascination with Egypt.
As I grew and learned more about religion and myself, the conversion began.
Conversion is a strange and long process. Does it ever truly end?
In my early days of Paganism, I did Ostara right alongside Easter. I was quiet about it. I did my ritual in secret when everyone had gone to bed. I was still wondering if an angry Christian God was watching me from some dark corner… A year or so later, my sister dyed Easter eggs while I dyed Ostara eggs. When we were finished, we had an amusing collection of crosses and pentacles. My father was thrilled. Really. I was passive aggressively asserting my religious freedom. I refused to get up for church. I obnoxiously made sure everyone knew my views on the Christian appropriation of Pagan symbols. I still celebrated Ostara on Easter.
In retrospect, I think it was easier for me to do it that way while still living under my parents’ roof. As I progressed through college and increased my independence, I further distanced myself from conforming with Christianity. I celebrated the Spring Equinox – and not on Easter. I still do this. It’s the same with Christmas and Winter Solstice. I do my thing, and my family does theirs. That said, I’m still kind of expected to visit and take part in dinner. I gladly come down to see family. Tribe is so important to me.
I sometimes feel bad. My mother misses the enthusiasm I once had for these holidays. She doesn’t see that my joy transferred completely over to the Pagan celebrations. My family doesn’t celebrate any of my holidays and yet I would never hear the end of it if I didn’t join them for some aspect of theirs. My mother wants me to dye eggs with her – and I might – but she doesn’t understand my less than enthused attitude. When I try to explain that I wish they joined me for some of my traditions, that she could have dyed eggs with me for the Spring Equinox, she looks at me like I have three heads.
I thank the Gods for my husband. He keeps me grounded. He gently reminds me that my parents only ever knew Easter and it’s what they understand. He makes me smile when, even though he’s agnostic, he refers to the Wheel of the Year as “our” holidays. He told me that he’s excited about Beltaine – and he genuinely meant it. He says he loves the chaos of the Maypole – the smiles people share as they haphazardly spin fertility into the land while children whoop and tumble on the grass. Sharing that joy with a loved one means so much to me.
I don’t fault or hate my parents for their customs and beliefs. Easter is meaningful to them. God and Jesus are important to them and give them comfort. I respect that. They just don’t seem to have that understanding for my own religion. Perhaps my awkwardness derives from my belief in reciprocity – the sacred contract of give and take. I feel like I’m always giving and attempting to celebrate with my parents in the respectful way of a non-believer. I don’t feel like they give back and do the same. They never visit for the high days (they come around Winter Solstice but that’s entirely because of my birthday). They don’t join me for celebratory dinners. They don’t want to exchange any gifts on Winter Solstice. They don’t show an interest in making Brighid crosses, dying eggs for the Spring Equinox, dancing and drumming around a bonfire, collecting the first flowers and dancing around the Maypole for Beltaine, etc… The lack of reciprocity tires me.