Saturday, 8 March 2008

Easter without tears (or blood or crowns of thorns)

"Who likes these?" asks Clara the teaching assistant, holding up a brace of hot cross buns. Hands wave. Lips are licked. Beads of saliva form at the corners of mouths. Arms stretch forward.

"Well, you're not having them," says Clara. "They're for the children. I'm using them in music."

"You're dicing with death teasing the other teachers like that," I say to her, as we head for the hall. "They ran out of chocolate biscuits yesterday and they're getting desperate. I could swear I found some sucked pigeon feathers by the kettle this morning."

"Well, we need them to explain Easter to reception," says Clara.

"If you say so," I say. "I vote we just do the hymns and let them interpret them any way they want. You could link almost all of them to current obsessions."

"'There is a green hill?'"


"'Forty days and forty nights?'"

"Faddy diets."

"'Trotting, trotting to Jerusalem,?'"

"Animal welfare. And rubbish lyric writing."

"Sasha wants the story told," says Clara, primly. "So shall I be the one to do it this year?"

"Be my guest," I say. "I'll be in the cupboard, polishing my maraccas."

Easter euphemisms have arrived even earlier at school this year. (Personally, I blame global warming for the general tendency to turn good, crisp unambiguous language into mush, though the evidence is purely circumstantial).

It's not hard to tell the Christmas story. After all, the themes - celebrity babies, royalty, exotic travel and goodie bags - tie in so well with society's major preoccupations.

Then, just as the last angel pictures come down off the Good Work board, in springs Easter - all betrayal, suffering and death. True believers would, of course, count everlasting life and redemption for one and all as a happy ending - but however great their commitment to the idea, it tends to lose a little in the retelling to 5 year olds, especially as nobody ever seems to bother explaining how, in the intervening three months, it's bye bye Baby Jesus and hello Fisher of Men.

You've got to give Clara credit for persistence, though.

"Who likes hot cross buns?" she says, wiping off what looks like a big blob of staff drool before holding one up. The arms wave.

"What's on top of them?"

"Butter." "Jam." "Honey." "Your finger."

"No," says Clara, "It's a cross. It's all about what happens at Easter. It's a little bit sad because Jesus got put on a cross. Why?"

"Because he was going to get eaten?"

"No....anyway. His friends came to look for him and he wasn't there. And on Easter Sunday, what happened. Was Jesus still dead?"

"Yes," say the children, logically enough.

"No. He came alive again. Which was good, wasn't it?"

The children look extremely doubtful. The class hamster has recently died. Having all been read tasteful books designed to promote the idea of death as a one-way rite of passage, this must all be coming as a terrible shock, especially the notion that Hammy could even now be trying to dig frantically through the shoebox and back up through the earth.

"He's not alive now, is he?" asks one child with noticeable trepidation.

"No," says Clara, "It was a very long time ago. But if you go into a church and look carefully, you may see a little Jesus on a cross."

They seem disinclined to try this out for themselves.

One thing's for sure. Clara's Easter chats can do nothing but help the spread of secularism. And if I can somehow get her to do the same thing for every other religion, too, the world is practically bound to become a better place.


Mya said...

I thought Easter was just about eating more chocolate. Your blog is very educational. Thanks Teach!

Mya x

Iota said...

I've often been struck by how sanitised our kids' stories have become. Lots of fairy tales are really gruesome, but they've all been Disneyfied these days (although Ursula the sea witch in 'The Little Mermaid' gave my daughter nightmares, so I shouldn't be so scathing).

Easter is indeed a tricky one - trying to banish the fear of death for children who haven't yet met it (or not properly). Perhaps we should just do a rerun of Christmas. The shepherds could bring more lambs, and the wise men Faberge eggs. We could have chocolate donkeys, and there could be primroses round the stable instead of fake snow. Simnel cake is already pretty similar to Christmas cake (we could rename it Simlar cake).


Elizabeth Musgrave said...

The woman should be shot. Next year shoot her early and then you get the buns and the children are spared.

Potty Mummy said...

'in springs Easter...' Oh, you are SO clever, OM...

Omega Mum said...

Mya: My job is to bring a little more cynicism and sadness into the world. It's nice to know I'm succeeding.

Iota: I'll tell where the rot started. It was Rupert the Bear with his bear face and humanoid hands. Get that sort of image beaming round the world and within a generation you have kids searching for fingers and nails on their Sunday roast.

Elizabethm: Have tried shooting, but out of silver bullets.

Potty Mummy: It's just my life, sadly. But thank you. I am touched. Though you didn't need me to tell you that.

Irene said...

Let me ask you something, are you teaching at a public school, this as opposed to a private school, because it seems kind of odd that a public school celebrates Christian holidays.

In the Netherlands we have none of that and most kids are completely ignorant of any Christian meaning of the holidays and the holidays are called spring break and winter break, etc.

There are religiously based schools, but you have to specifically chose for them and I am privately opposed to them when they are being paid for by tax money.

Those buns do sound delicious, though, and I wouldn't mind having one, without the drool, please.

I Beatrice said...

Clara's Easter chat must be one of the worst on record!

Personally, I like the story of the child who on being told it was Easter and Jesus had died, cried out that "He didn't live very long then, did he? He was only born at Christmas!"

I am wondering if a hearty dollop of Richard Dawkin might serve as an antidote here?

Though when it comes to lyrics, I can still spring a tear or two, myself, over that little donkey plodding ever onward along the dusty road...

DJ Kirkby said...

Hear, hear, set her loose on the religions of the world, we could use a bit of Peace...Come over to mine otmorrow, I've got an award for you. See? I'm doing my bit to spread the love. Dress code stipulates PJ's and slippers, just so you know and don't wear your ball gown...

Cath said...

That is so funny! As one who has a tremendous faith I still find a giggle at how we try to get our children to understand things.

Especially the 3 months after baby Jesus bit he's a grown man and dying!

You write really well. For me, it just adds confirmation that the "stories" we tell children are not what really happened, but wrapped up with sugar candy and distorted beyond understanding. Back to basics I say! (With apologies to NuLab who never quite got that one right either).

Cath said...

And I've just read your comments - I agree with Potty Mummy. You are very good and so make me smile!
Silver bullets indeed! Tried wooden stakes? Should be a few around being Easter and all that...

Omega Mum said...

Sweet I: I'd love to say bun waiting for you over here - and one day, when the technology evolves, it will be. All schools do a bit of religion here and there - including state schools with a nominal affiliation to a church, so Easter does tend to crop up in both state and private establishments.

IB: It was a classic in its way, wasn't it?

DJ: Am all dressed down, but what did you want for food - have meringue with vodka topping - will that do?

Crazy Cath: How very lovely and kind. Thank you so much.

Cath said...

Possible useful tools for you over at mine... ;0)

Cath said...

Om - did I really call you omega 3 on my post?

It is corrected. Please accept apologies. I'm not well you know....

Nunhead Mum of One said...

Cousin Janey objects to jewellery crosses with Jesus on them, and actually asked my mum to take the one we had bought her for her 18th back to the shop. Mum thought she had offended her religious sensibilities and did as she was asked. When we handed the Jesus free cross to her I asked her what the problem was.

"It's all scratchy and sharp and catches on me mohair jumper" she said innocently.

the mother of this lot said...

Took me years to figure out the three month thing.

Anonymous said...

When Ben was younger his main concern about Easter was death-related. As in "Was it the nails in his hands that killed Jesus, or the sword they stuck in his side?"

Omega Mum said...

Crazy cath: Thank you very much - I didn't realise you called me Omega 3 but Francis, who virtually bathes in the stuff, will be thrilled.

Mother of this lot: It didn't occur to me that there was anything to be worked out until I started teaching - so well done you, frankly.

Beta Mum: And how very sensible of him to want to find out. What did he conclude?

softinthehead said...

Thank you Clara that was very enlightening!! Very funny - glad I found you, (via Expatmum I think).