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Q & A – How Would Your Characters Celebrate Easter?

By C.V. Lee
April 15, 2022

When I recall Easter celebrations of my youth, I think of church and the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. It was a day when girls wore brightly colored dresses and fancy hats, and I looked forward to the Easter bunny delivering a basket filled with chocolate bunnies and colored plastic eggs filled with candy. The day wasn’t complete without an egg hunt or a sugar egg.

Over the course of history, Easter traditions have changed—from its pagan origins several millennium ago to our modern day Easter bunny at the mall ready to pose for pictures with our children.

So I asked some of our Lanterns to share how their characters would have celebrated the Easter Holy Days.

Anne Beggs gives us a picture of how her characters in ARCHER’S GRACE would have celebrated.

“In thirteenth century, Connacht, Ireland, they would have spent forty days of Lent in denial of so much – meat, dairy, poultry, eggs, good food and drink, no sex, and marriages were postponed. Fish, not a delicacy, was consumed, culminating in some fish abuse ceremonies, beating a dead herring on the Saturday before. Easter was the most important event in the Christian calendar and Holy Week leading up to Easter was strictly observed. Easter Sunday, celebrating the resurrection, the rebirth (such a nice fit with Ostara/Eostera-spirng), also broke the forty days fasting, and ham, salted/corned beef, lamb, poultry and eggs were eaten in celebratory fashion; the alcohol was flowing. Piety and sobriety were left behind as debauchery and boisterous bravado resurrected. I have written a chapter in Book Three, Easter is the event; it is pissing down rain, the drink is flowing, all are confined in the castle and this sacred day unfolds into betrayal and lost trust.”

During the medieval era, Easter week would have been marked by a lot of church going, mass and vespers. In C.V. Lee’s upcoming novel, ROSES & REBELS, set in the 15th century, she makes a passing reference to an old tradition that for most has long since been forgotten.

“Holy days were times when the peasants had rest from working the fields and, coming off forty days of deprivation during Lent, were ready for a fortnight of celebration with the return of meat and eggs to their diet, lots of drinking and more than a bit of fun. Following Easter was two weeks of festivities called Hocktide. While there are many activities, the second week contained one my favorites. That Monday, it was tradition for the girls, and even married women, to kidnap a man and hold him for ransom. When the money was paid, it was then donated to the local church. Then, on Tuesday, the opposite. Boys and men would kidnap the girls and women and hold them for ransom.

“The practice was suppressed for a time during the Reformation of the 16th century (too disorderly, although not to quite the extent of Twelfth Night), and again in the mid-17th century during the Restoration. The practice was revived around 1660, but by the 19th century had mostly died out.”

The procession of the Esperanza de Triana brotherhood crosses over Triana bridge during the Holy Week March 29 2002 in the Andalusian capital in southern Spain Hundreds of easter processions take place through central Seville during Holy Week drawing thousands of visitors REUTERS Marcelo del Pozo REUTERS

In Rebecca D’Harlingue’s novel, THE LINES BETWEEN US, her character Juliana is in Seville during the spring of 1660.

“Many of the Easter celebrations there dated back even further, to the sixteenth century or earlier. Observances last throughout Semana Santa (Holy Week), beginning on Palm Sunday and continuing all week, with that on Good Friday being perhaps the most dramatic.

“Organized by the different religious brotherhoods, the processions begin at the church of that brotherhood, whose members carry a statue or an elaborate depiction of a scene from the Passion of Christ. Some of these structures are centuries old and weigh thousands of pounds. Specific songs about the Passion and the sorrows of the Virgin Mary are sung. Participants may dress in robes and capirotes, the pointed canonical hats covering the face, in the tradition that penitents may thus retain anonymity.

“It is impossible to know what the general atmosphere was during Semana Santa in the seventeenth century, but nowadays, along with the serious, there is a festive air, with restaurants and bars staying open until late into the night. In a way that seems peculiarly Spanish, Easter Week combines the sacred and the joyful, the religious and the artistic. It is a tradition in which everyone participates, no matter what class or age.”

 

Mari Christie’s novel BLIND TRIBUTE takes place during the American Civil War Era, when the observance of Easter was more circumspect.

“I suspect, in a lot of historical fiction, our characters would have celebrated Easter by going to church, and most of mine are no exception. Some go to Catholic mass, some to Quaker meeting, still others to Christ Church, but all would probably make a point, at least at Easter and Christmas, to attend. Now, that said, my characters tend not to be the most devout, so if I were to hear of one not making it to church on Easter for one reason or another, it would not really surprise me.”

Ana Brazil shares with us two of her heroines, each celebrating Easter very differently:

“For some reason (perhaps the invigorating energy of a sunny spring day?) my first two novels are set in April.

“My debut novel FANNY NEWCOMB & THE IRISH CHANNEL RIPPER begins just after Easter in 1889. Still, I know how Fanny would have celebrated Easter—by attending the 11a.m. service at Christ Church (Episcopal) Cathedral. And although Fanny is a hard-working typewriting teacher (and an amateur-sleuth-in-waiting), she did not usually work on Sundays. I imagine her spending Easter afternoon at Greenwood Cemetery attending to the graves of her parents, or reading on the front gallery of the Wisdom Hall Social Settlement, where she lives and works.

“Viola Vermillion—the heroine of my currently-am-querying, set-in-1919-San-Francisco novel THE RED-HOT BLUES CHANTEUSE—is not-at-all religious or a church goer. Like the rest of the performers in her vaudeville troupe, she works late into the night and sleeps long into the morning. She hasn’t been in a church since…well, she can’t remember. This Easter in San Francisco is just another Sunday to Viola. She’ll perform at the Pantages Theatre on Market Street at 2:34 and 8:34 pm, and in between she’ll make time for eating breakfast and dinner at Fongs’ Chinese Cafe, practicing new songs for her act, and strolling to Union Square for some department store window shopping.”

We would love for you to share with us your families Easter traditions. Or if you’re a writer, tell us how your characters celebrated the holy day.

C.V. Lee
Written by C.V. Lee

C.V. Lee writes historical biographical fiction featuring forgotten heroes and heroines of the past. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, Alli, and a founding member of Paper Lantern Writers. You can find her on Facebook @cvlee.histficwriter and on Instagram @cvleewriter.

View CV’s PLW Profile

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