|Easter table, next generation|
Down the road to the left I can see the tall pointy willow trees that surround the orchards behind the farm, and straight ahead of me, I can see the woods that surround the farm itself. The trees are still bare, but below them is all the greenery from the now finished Winter Aconites, and in groupings everywhere are Daffodils planted by my grandmother in the fall. -One more turn, we now pass the chicken run with it's large chicken coop, a small house really, and then the soft rounding, which is always a gamble as opposing traffic presents a problem on this very narrow part of the road. Finally we make a sharp left and enter through the two old white pillars, one of which is quite crooked, but always painted perfectly. Even with my eyes closed, I would know this gravel-driveway. The gravel is much smaller than any other place I know, hence making the crunchy sound under the tires smaller too, more quiet and refined.
My heart jumps, they are here, they are here! I have been guessing the whole way over here, about whether or not my cousins will have arrived before us. I don't get to see my cousins often; they are the exact same ages as us and we always have so much fun together. I must be the first one to say the secret phrase to Jette! A little on-going competition we have.
My morfar (mother's father) greets us at the big oak door with beautiful rectangular carvings on it. He always makes his guests feel welcome. We each look him in the eyes as we shake his hand, my brothers bow and I curtsey. You must think I am from terribly long ago, which really isn't the case; my family was just very old fashioned and they genuinely praised a good curtsey/propper bow; we all became excellent at it.
There is a lot of noise in the living room, noise from everybody greeting each other; it is so nice to see our big extended family here together again. We are told to keep our coats on and to line up with the smallest one first, just like at Christmastime before the lighted tree is revealed. My grandmother holds out little square pieces of different colored foil; we are each to pick one and hold on to it. We are very excited. She explains to us, that morfar this very morning (morfar for some reason always had close ties to the hare-population in these parts. He could tell stories of the hares, that made you giggle and laugh, while he was bouncing you up and down on his knee) saw that the Easterhare had been to visit. Morfar had explained to the Easterhare that the children of this family had been very good all year, which resulted in the generous Easterhare depositing chocolate eggs for us. We were each to now find five little and two medium sized chocolate eggs, only in the foil-color we had chosen. We were to leave all other colored eggs we might find alone and not give hints to our cousins or siblings as to, what we may have seen in their color.
The grown-ups recieved two large eggs each (boring ones though for us kids, as they had adult flavors!), but they too had to find them, and theirs were hidden in much harder places. Off we all went into the very large backyard of Baadesgaard. We kids took off as fast as our legs could manage in our Easter Finery, we looked in places, we might have remembered from last year, and were surprised at the new places the Easter Hare had found to hide the eggs. The grown-ups walked at a more leisurely pace, some years pushing babies in prams, chatting with each other in little groups as they perused the perimeter of my mormor's large perennial gardens.
The Easter Hare is actually not a particularly old tradition in Denmark; it came from Germany and England (in England, I believe it is a "bunny"). In Germany it was mentioned all the way back in 1682, in Heidelberg but he didn't appear in Denmark until the beginning of the 1900s and at first only in the southern parts.
After a successful Easter Egg hunt, we all go back inside, where it is warm and where the long table in the large wood paneled dining room is decorated beautifully with all sorts of Easter and Spring themed things. All silver pieces are cleaned to perfection and shine in the light from the candles. From the chandelier hangs very old eggs decorated a long time ago by ancestors, a miracle really, that mormor still has them. On the table are little yellow chicks, both old and new and all sorts of spring bulbs brought to perfect bloom exactly for this day.
The tradition of decorating eggs dates all the way back to the middle ages where we have proof that in finer circles eggs were decorated around this time of year. Colored by being cooked in onion peel for example, the eggs get a beautiful hue. They would then scratch designs into the shell itself. Or if they had used wax to decorate the eggs before the cooking, the waxed parts were prevented from absorbing the color and would stand out in beautiful designs.
-Aside from being a general sign of spring, eggs were a part of the foods that were blessed at the "food blessing" a blessing that took place at Eastertime in many other countries as well.
-In the historic book "Jammersminde" where Leonora Christine describes the 22 years the King held her prisoner in Blaataarn ("Blue Tower") She recalls exchanging decorated eggs with another prisoner in 1667.
-After a long winter of less productive egg-laying, eggs were considered a welcome delicacy when production picked up at spring time. In the farming communities maids and farmhands were often given eggs as a bonus. These eggs they would either give as gifts to friends, eat or play games with. Many of these games are still played today; they often involve balancing (on a spoon for example) or rolling either in a race or to hit the opponent petanque-style, but winning the egg, they hit (hardboiled recommeded!).
-Children would often sing in exchange of eggs they wanted to gather, for the Easter Holiday.
-Sugar eggs were not introduced until the end of the 1800s and chocolate eggs in Denmark entered the stage in 1917 by Galle & Jessen, although they didn't become truly popular until after WWll .
Back in mormor's dining room: Sometimes we (kids) would sit at our own table. Our table would be a miniature of the big table, with white linens, shiny silver, little chicks and blooming bulbs. One difference would be our drinks. My grandparents had come up with an ingenious way to spoil us with the rare pleasure of a soda without having the bottle fall and spill all over the fineries, which invariably will happen, where children and soda bottles are involved. My morfar, would make a hole through the bottle cap, by hammering a large clean nail through it and pulling the nail back out. A straw would now fit perfectly through the hole and even if the bottle were to tip over, nothing would spill!
|Kid's table, next generation|
We actually preferred having a "children's table", as it was easier to leave the table early then, and go to the entrance-hall, where we would play dress-up with all the hats, scarves and fancy gloves we could find.
Leaving the table early had it's own protocol, as we would first ask permission to do so from my grandfather. As we got older, we were expected to want to sit at the table longer, so it was always more productive sending one of the youngest (cuter) of us to ask for that permission. When permission to leave the table early was granted, usually after proving we had enjoyed enough food; we each went, first to one end of the long table to shake my mormor's hand, bow/curtsey and thank her for the meal, then we went all the way to the other end of the table to do the same to my morfar, who would take the shaking of hands and the curtsey-ing/bowing seriously only to try to pinch us gently or tickle us as we walked by his chair; he loved us children and he loved having fun with us and teasing us.
The Easter Luncheon would go on all day. The foods were always plentiful; starting with various kinds of herring (curried, white, spiced, fried etc), which were much more appealing to the grown-ups who would enjoy it with ice-cold schnaps to help the herring "swim" as they would say, but there would also be deviled eggs and tomato halves, which were both more palatable for us young ones.
Then came the warmer dishes, we looked forward to those because "frikadeller" (Danish meatballs) would be involved, warm pate, perhaps pork tenderloin with a creamed mushroom sauce, boiled or scalloped potatoes, often lamb and many other things that would vary from year to year.
Dessert could involve a cheese selection and fruit, often a delicious cake, perhaps with dry hazelnut-meringue, layered with ice cream and fruit compote. Later we were often allowed a creamy popsicle.
Mormor and morfar stand in the great front door, as we leave. We stick our hands as far out of the car windows as we can and wave vigorously for as long as we can see them, until we make a right out of the farmyard and the buildings obscure our view of mormor and morfar. Sometimes mormor surprises us and runs along the chicken coop only to pop out on the sideroad and keep waving to us from there; we love that!
The whole house was happy. These traditions I have continued with my family here in America, where each year we have an Easter Egg hunt. This year, 2011, Easter Sunday is on April 24th and a scheduling conflict may arise, but even on years where we have to pass for one reason or another; my thoughts always go to those Easter Luncheons at Baadesgaard and I think of my cousins, I think of my uncles and aunts, both those who are still here and those who have left us, and I think of my parents, my brothers and their families and I get filled with warmth and happiness; those were always good times. I hope that our children and their cousins, will one day look back and feel that same warmth about family Easter Luncheons and Easter Egg Hunts, even if it IS an "Easter Bunny" and not an "Easter Hare" we have here! Happy Easter!