The author pictured in a traditional Easter costume.

Holidays are a big deal at my house. While raising our three daughters, my wife and I have thoroughly enjoyed Halloween costumes, visits from the Easter Bunny, and Valentine’s Day parties — and we even let the kids join in most of the time. Seriously, though, now that our girls are teenagers, some of the holiday magic might be slightly diminished, but we still try our best to get them excited about celebrating, usually by involving cash.

I think I inherited my enthusiasm for holidays from my parents. Some of the best times of my childhood were the grand Easter celebrations with my mom, dad and big brother — when he wasn’t sitting on my head.

There were always Easter baskets full of candy and small toys that we managed to tear up by noon. Then we attended church together in our chocolate-soiled finery, followed by an Easter lunch featuring a delicious baked ham–since turkey is apparently on the cancel culture hit list every spring. And I still can’t catch a whiff of vinegar without reminiscing about dyeing boiled eggs (and our fingers) with those little PAAS tablets that look like miniature SweeTARTS (Warning! They don’t taste so good!)

One year, Easter fell on my birthday, and my mom threw me a huge bunny-themed party complete with jelly bean cupcakes and rabbit ears for everyone to wear. I can’t remember whether I turned four or fourteen that year, but Mom has threatened to post the photos on Facebook if I don’t behave.

I’ve always tried to carry on these traditions with my own children, but maintaining a festive atmosphere was especially difficult at last year’s Easter celebration that came shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic started raging. The girls were so grouchy about missing their friends and extended family that I seriously considered swapping out their Easter baskets with brand new laundry bins full of their unwashed bras and underwear. But I was determined to have fun, so the Easter Bunny came after all, followed by a homebound egg hunt, a worship service livestreamed over YouTube, and an Easter brunch — all while we were sporting pajamas and acute cases of bed head.

Despite our best efforts, though, the pall of the pandemic was tangible as we missed out on dinner with grandparents (and the ham), egg hunts with cousins, and fellowship with our church congregation. We still had Easter, and we celebrated the Resurrection, but it just wasn’t the same.

Of course, I realize that I’ve been spoiled throughout my life by parents who wanted to make all major holidays special and fun. And I know I’m guilty of the same with my own children. Easter is, after all, primarily a religious observance, and believers like us should keep the Resurrection at the forefront of our celebrating — even if we have a mouthful of Whoppers Robin Eggs while doing it.

We’re not sure what Easter will hold this year. The pandemic seems to be waning, but like that licorice jellybean my big brother spit up on his new, baby blue Easter suit when we were toddlers, the virus still lingers, threatening to tarnish it — if we let it.

Regardless of what happens, I choose to focus on the hope that Easter brings. Hope for the vaccines. Hope for reunited families. Hope for a new beginning. And if I play my cards right, hope for a massive baked ham at Easter lunch.

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