When I was a child, the seasons of Lent and Easter were seen as the worst of times and the best of times. When you are an adult, they can be seen purely as the best of times. For an adult, Lent can offer reflection and retrospection, a chance for change for the better, while Easter can mark new beginnings. Resolutions.
Growing up, Lent for my siblings and me, meant deprivation and being subjected wholly to the will of our mother. We considered it to be the worst of times. Lent for us was filled with attendance at Friday church services, when we would rather be doing fun things. It meant Wednesdays and Fridays without meat and when she felt like it, there would be fish on some Fridays. Because mother would abstain from sweets during Lent, it automatically meant that we as children would also be deprived of her cakes, coconut buns, cassava pone and mauby. It was the worst of times, I tell you.
Holy Thursday would arrive with a sombre church service in the evening. As we readied ourselves, the sweet smell of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg told us that there were freshly made Cross Buns that we would be expected to have for breakfast the following morning. At the end of the Holy Thursday service, my mother insisted that even if we did go home after the service, we were to return some time in the evening to “keep watch” at the altar of the Blessed Sacrament.
During the vigil, we girls – my sister and friends – would notice how happy and content the altar boys seemed to be, while we were tired and sleepy. My brother, who was an
altar boy, would later reveal to us the “secret” to their “happiness”.
Because the Holy Thursday night vigil would be long, sometimes stretching just past midnight, the altar boys worked in pairs as they took turns kneeling at the altar and keeping watch with the rest of us. The rest of them would be gathered in the dark, outside of the church, laughing, talking and filling their bellies with Chinese food they had bought from the restaurant not too far away from the Church (the restaurant was somewhere before Arapaima, Qik Serv). How we envied them. When they had their fill of food and drink, they got dressed in their tailored, long white gowns, adorned with shaped sashes that sat smartly just off their waist. With hands clasped reverently, they’d take up their positions and kneel. How innocent they looked.
Good Friday morning meant a meal of cross buns, cheese, jam or butter with tea. I found the entire meal ho-hum, but you know what, I ate it because I knew that my next meal would not be until later in the evening after returning from the long 3-hour service at church. My mother fasted on Good Friday and that meant that we had to fast too. Water
was the only thing we were allowed to drink. While mom’s fast started at 6 in the morning, ours started after breakfast. And guess what would be on the menu for the evening meal? Either an all-vegetarian dish or something with fish. Back then, I saw it as the worst of times. All my siblings and I kept thinking was, just one more day before life returns to normal. And we knew it was going to be a good return because we heard about all the plans for the Easter Sunday feast! And best of all, we could busy ourselves helping my Uncle and cousins to put the finishing touches to our kites!
We always got new outfits for Easter. Mom presented us with chocolate Easter eggs. We could run and play. It was like Christmas. It was the best of times!
Our family always went to the Easter Saturday Night Church service; this meant that we got to sleep in on the Sunday morning. While children were outside busying themselves with their kites and taking them out to test-fly before the afternoon outing at the seawall, the adults were busy preparing so many different dishes that there would be need to join two dining tables. The meat of sheep was a focal point of the meal, whether it was lamb (young sheep’s meat) or mutton (older sheep’s meat). Roast pork and chicken would be there too. Pies – savoury and sweet, salads and Mexican (Spanish) rice as well as the ubiquitous platter of fried rice.
While many families packed picnic baskets and headed to the park or sea wall, ours never did. We always had the big family meal at home and then went out in the afternoon to fly our kites. As a child I was in awe of how something so simple – wood and coloured paper glued together, with a tail of fabric attached – could soar to such heights. There is a squeal of delight that truly expresses the feeling of amazement, one that comes from a child.
The seasons. Lent and Easter. Fasting and Feasting. Times to cherish, forever.
Happy Easter Everybody!