It’s Easter or was Easter, if we have to abide the calendar, but we’re still riding on the Easter high. In Bulgaria [as well as in all Eastern Orthodox countries] Easter ranks second in the list of holidays. In Greece people take one week off from work before Easter and one week after Easter. I love Easter, because it used to get me days off from school, hard boiled eggs and the sweet Easter bread with the consistency of cotton and taste of heaven.
Growing up, however, I felt quite conflicted about Easter traditions. My family was one of the first to have cable TV – hence my introduction to the wonderful world of Cartoon Network – which led to learning about the Easter Bunny, the egg hunt and the chocolate eggs. This all happened after communism fell, so Bulgaria could now smuggle in Easter Bunny stickers. Let me tell you that they only deepened my confusion as I certainly asked about the Bunny and I was told by my grandparents that we didn’t have one.
No, what we had was the Lame Donkey. The Lame Donkey is a magical donkey – I think it’s the donkey that Jesus rode on as he entered Jerusalem – that enters the homes of sleeping kids on Saturday night and leaves a hardboiled egg [painted red to symbolize Christ’s blood] next or under the pillow of said sleeping child. I used to be terrified, because I don’t think donkeys are nice or adorable and limping animals freaked me out – mainly because I can’t stare at any sort of deformation or abnormality.
I remember enjoying the hardboiled egg though, so the very least I was rewarded for having the patience with this story. Now, nobody knows about the Lame Donkey. It’s so obscure I’m not even sure I didn’t make this up [grandparents confirmed I’m typing the truth]. Funny, yet creepy crossover is that I remember Eeyore carrying a basket full of Easter eggs. To me this was yet again confusing, cause Eeyore is a rather drowsy type with a falling tail.
The other great misconception I had about Easter was that I would go on an Easter egg hunt, like kids in US movies had. No such thing. No chocolate eggs either. The egg tradition in my country is rather different. For one we use real hardboiled eggs, which we ritualistically paint on either Thursday or Saturday. In the old days the color always was red – Christ’s blood – but now we can go rainbow on the eggs. The real fun starts on Sunday, when all of the family gathers and starts ‘battling’. Basically we crack egg top against egg top and then egg bottom against egg bottom to determine the champion egg. The champion egg should have won all the battles and has to be preserved for the whole year in order to bring health and prosperity.