My family has an old story we used to hear annually about my grandparents. During the Great Depression, one year on Good Friday, my grandmother walked into the kitchen to discover my grandfather eating some beef. Devoutly Catholic, she was shocked at his transgression.
“Why, Raymond!” she scolded. “You know better than to eat meat during Lent — and on Good Friday, yet!”
“Yes, Pauline,” he replied, lowering his fork for just a moment. “And it’s a damned good Friday when I can find any.”
I never met my grandfather, but I’d sure like to think he’s not roasting in hell over that remark. Because if he is, I’ll probably join him one day for still appreciating it today.
I no longer observe the tradition of abstaining from meat on Good Friday, but I do have some traditions. One is sacred, the other secular — debatably pagan, in fact. It’s the dyeing of the Easter eggs.
When I was a kid, I’m pretty sure my siblings and I dyed eggs the night before Easter. But Kim and I chose Good Friday as the date for our family tradition because it makes the most sense — the boys have the day off and it’s something to keep them busy for 10 minutes or so. Besides, being stuck at home with them, we can’t possibly last another 24 hours against the onslaught of, “Can we dye eggs now? How about now? Now?”
So they dyed their eggs early this evening, taking great joy in the usual bubbling effect of the Paas tablets in vinegar and at the thought of writing messages hidden in white crayon on white eggs, that will appear after the dye immersion. This year’s messages ran the gamut from “Jesus ♥ you” with a drawing of a cross to “I love you Mom and Dad” written in one band around the egg’s circumference in a narrow band, so that the beginning and end of the sentence are smushed together, to “Pokemon.” I’m not sure what that last one has to do with Easter, but I half expect to open the carton Easter morning and find the “Pokemon” burned off the shell, a la the swastika on the crate in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
I just hope we don’t go to hell for allowing it among the more sacred messages. As a recovering Catholic, I worry about hell a lot. In fact, I have lots of burning questions at this time of year — things that have gnawed at my craw since I was a kid. To wit:
- Why do we call it Good Friday? That feels supremely selfish to me. I know it’s good because we’re saved, but shouldn’t we maybe think about it from our Savior’s perspective? Couldn’t have been all that good for Him.
- How do you get three days from Friday to Sunday? The text clearly indicates that on the third day He rose again, but the third day after Friday should be Monday. I’ve heard that it has something to do with the Jewish calendar, but I don’t understand the explanation.
- Why do we base a Christian holiday on the Jewish calendar, anyway? Yes, it’s related to Passover, but still…
- Did the Jewish calendar even have Fridays? If we’re going to insist on scheduling it by the Jewish calendar, why do we turn around and force our modern time notions on it? Why don’t we go all out and observe their days of the week? It might make the math add up better.
- Coming from a region where people had names like Bathsheba, Habakkuk and Zebadiah, how did this story end up with two women named Mary? I got them confused every year I listened to the Passion and every time I did the Stations of the Cross!
- Did anyone else ever think the Lord’s Prayer said, “Lead a snot into temptation”? That one used to keep me awake as a kid after I misheard it; I’d lie there wondering why Jesus felt it was okay for snots to be led into temptation. Sure, they’re snots, but don’t they deserve to be saved, too?
- Is the Easter Bunny human-sized or an actual rabbit? If he’s a rabbit, how does he manage to carry the baskets? If he’s human-sized, how is it possible for him to be a bunny?
I’ve managed to find answers to one or two of these questions over time, but the others still keep me awake. I suppose I’ll just have to ask my grandfather when I meet him; I hope it’s not too hot for us to have a little chat.