Sunday 31 March 2013

Will work for chocolate

In any family, you can make your own traditions. You can, of course. take the ‘standard’ traditions of whatever culture you were born or migrated into or you can modify them to better suit the true selves of the people with whom you share living space.  Insofar as the standard trads have been shunted aside by Hallmark and Toys’R’Us, modification may be closer to The Old Ways. We’ve been blessed with two families: a single boy when we were very young and foolish and then two girls after a gap of 18 years.  So we’ve had our own children in the house for the best part of 4 decades.  That’s at least 3 dozen Easters to develop a Paschal tradition. 

Easter is derived from Eostre the Saxon goddess of the radiant dawn and is redolent of Spring, fertility and regeneration – as symbolised by the eggs and bunnies which you can buy from Supavalu in the run up.  So it’s entirely appropriate to honour the childer on that day – they are after all the product of all that fertility.
There is a thread of the Protestant tradition in our family that values the work-ethic and feels it is no honour to hand the monstrous eggs, the Kinderüberraschungen, and the straight-up slabs of chocolate to children on a plate.  So for almost all the years since about 1980  I’ve gotten up bright and early (with Eostre indeed) and set out a treasure hunt designed to mak t’buggers work for their hyperglycaemic fix. For youngsters it’s been a straight enough hide and find, but, as they grew, the egg-hunts became more cryptic – my mother taught me the conventions of cryptic crosswords from the English broadsheets almost as soon as I could read, so weaselly reasoning is rather ingrained.  Less admirably perhaps the clues have also acquired a lot of doggerel:
currants, then raspberries,
a fence and a row
of thorny ould sciachs
to the middle one GO
One year we were off site and all I had to work with was 3 six-year-olds and a haggard full of rocks and machinery.  In the mess of agricultural detritus, I found a 5m length of baler-twine and tied a loop in each end.  The instructions were that there was an egg at each end of the rope.  So the kids had to cooperate – one to hold an end over the last egg, another to swing the string in an arc until pay-dirt was hit.  That year it was a wonderful brilliant sunny morning, a looping barn-dance “swing yer pardner by the hand” around the perimeter and through the middle and back to the kitchen for breakfast.
Another year, we had a hunt which required pulling individual letters from the Encyclopaedia Britannica to spell out clues to locations outside.  When I finally gave up on overhead-projection acetates and started using powerpoint as teaching aid, I made a whole hunt using that medium and no words.  When we bought a farmlet with 7 hectares of fields and ditches and hedgerows, we could really get out for some exercise climbing trees and getting wet in the river.  When the Boy returned home with his francophone Swiss girlfriend, we had une chasse au trésor in franglais.  I based it one year on playing cards using the suit of hearts which forced a convenient 12 clue limit with a larger egg at the Ace.  Looking back on previous years, I am amazed at my presumption in putting the kids through such antics and regard a lot of the clues as an elaborate game of “Isn’t Uncle Bob Clever”.  But they have risen to the challenge year after year and learned something about how to reason, how to free-associate and how the rewards of not giving up are more than 15g of chocolate.
But now I’ve run out of steam, the youngest child is learning to drive, and it seemed sensible to modify tradition yet again to No Egg Hunt This Year (sorry).  Except that the Boy is home with his own small child and he’s taken the hunt-baton on and up the mountain behind the house.  So we’ll really have to work (boots, binoculars, compass, Kendal mintcake, maybe even crampons) for chocolate this year.  Looking forward, me: a rough 3 hr hike through the heather will seem like a holiday.

1 comment:

  1. what torture for a piece of choc! sounds terrific...mind you given the powdery white covering on leinster over the weekend the boys must have had their work cut out for them...our traditions are much less onerous of course, hidden around the half acre, in usual spots, hoping the dog don't escape before they've got around with the little baskets. This year was an anti climax however - they all spet in until after 12...the dog was deighted...the mother less so