When have you ever seen whiter dogwoods, more gorgeous cascading wisteria, or so many early butterflies? Add to all that the longest Easter season on a calendar since 1943 when Easter was on April 25, and it's a springtime for the record books.
If all goes well, the grand finale on Easter Day will be filled with moments of reflection and inspiration, songs of praise, fellowship with family, friends and fellow believers, and children... happy, laughing, beautiful children. Perhaps there will be a bunny rabbit. (Peter Cottontail has been spotted in our backyard which is dangerously - for the gardeners - close to Woodstock's community garden.) A few baby chicks, maybe?
Just the thought brings back memories of an Easter Sunday when our girls were young and we came home from church and looked out back to see our precious little Bantam hen - who had been mysteriously missing for days - leading her little band of 12 biddies out of the woods! Talk about a lesson in "new life." That's as close to reality as symbolism gets.
My favorite Easter grandchildren story is of our little Johnny's holiday mix-up. It was a rainy, cold Easter day, keeping us confined indoors for the egg hunt. We hid the eggs, over and over, taking turns hiding and searching. It was Johnny's turn to hide the eggs. He was probably 3 years old, maybe 4. Everybody gathered behind the closed door in one room to wait while Johnny hid the eggs. After a few long minutes, he burst into the room and loudly announced, "Trick or treat!" What a treat. This year we'll have little ones galore, all girls. I'm looking forward to the old memories of our daughters that will be triggered as we watch this generation set their own traditions.
Technology has changed some traditions, not necessarily a bad thing. It is very nice not to have to wait days or weeks for film to be developed. We now have photos in a matter of seconds. Little girls no longer wear white gloves and crinoline petticoats and their moms don't wear hats, or hose with seams. We seem finally to have accepted the fact that apparel finery should not define Easter. But forever and always, Easter will herald that time of year when we can see warm days ahead and the cold and ice and snow become dim memories. Coats and gloves and heavy shoes are put away. It's time for the white sandals... and the cute photos.
Some things about Easter have not changed. We still sing "He Arose" and we still hear the words from the cross. We still rejoice in the hope of the resurrection.
In 1984, it was my privilege to go with a group of friends to the 350th anniversary production of the Passion Play in Oberammergau, Germany. Usually during Holy Week I refresh my memory of that experience by looking through the diary I kept on that trip, and reading again the story of how the play came to be. My favorite keepsake of the event is a book of vivid photos of the characters and scenes. I can almost hear the emotion in their voices.
The entire production is in German, but each person in the audience has the text in his own language to follow along. Much of the script is word-for-word just as we heard and memorized over the decades, so following the drama is easy. I remember the truly awesome feeling of brotherhood (for want of a better word) in that audience. There were people from nations all over the world, seeing and hearing the one story that bound them together. The introduction of each act includes a tableau representing a corresponding scene from the Old Testament or the Apocrypha. This merging of the old and new was impressive and enlightening.
Each production is 10 years in the making, and the result is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for those who are blessed to be there. It was in July when we went. Performances run all summer every 10 years. But for me, it was Easter as I had never experienced it before.
Commercially speaking, retailers must be in a dilemma. Mother's Day is exactly two weeks from Easter. That did not happen at all during the last century and won't happen again until 2095. Don't you just love our calendar! Happy Easter to all of you.
Juanita Hughes is Woodstock's official historian and the former director of the Woodstock Public Library.