My brother and I both moved away from home a long time ago and now it’s only on rare occasions that all four members of our family are in the same place at the same time. So even though my family is not religious at all, we use every opportunity, be it Christmas, Easter or Hanukkah, to spend time together. Mostly these gatherings are encouraged (some people might say “forced”) by my mum, and the holiday is really just an excuse to bring the whole family together in our family house in Rijeka.
Since the purpose isn’t to celebrate religion, but rather to eat together and use our laptops in the same room, our holidays have a pretty loose structure. There are certain traditions that we follow though: like moving the fake Christmas tree, already decorated from the past year, from the cellar into our living room, or opening present on the morning of Christmas Eve, almost two days before anyone else. On Christmas Eve we eat dinner with our extended family, and for Easter we paint boiled eggs and my mum and I each paint a religious painting and a dog portrait which my dad then has to grade (embarrassingly, this is a very recent tradition).
My favourite tradition of all is Easter breakfast, and I love it for a few reasons.
Reason one: Easter breakfast includes, among other things, the boiled eggs painted the day before. As I said, my mum doesn’t really care about the tradition as long as we’re all together so she’s mostly sloppy with colouring the eggs and ours were almost always the ugliest. On Easter morning, as a Croatian tradition, people receive a painted egg as a gift from family and friends. We used to pass the gifted ones on because ours were too plain to be given as a gift.
I, on the other hand, love painting the eggs. I appreciate originality but the most important thing is that they are nicely painted. Jay, being a perfectionist in almost everything he does, agrees with me on that.
The last two Easters we spent alone, just the two of us. Last year we were in Olympia, in Greece and this year in Carnac, in France. Both years we tried hard to keep the tradition going. Last year we painted our eggs with ballpoint pens we had lying around in the camper van because the markers we attempted to use just rubbed off the egg’s surface. This year I almost had a panic attack when I couldn’t find a proper egg-colouring kit in the French Hypermarché. Jay somehow managed to convince me that the watercolours would work just as well so I reluctantly agreed to buy them (even though I was really sceptical). And they worked wonderfully! We spend the whole Saturday evening in the van, laughing out loud listening to a Louie CK stand-up comedy CD and painting the eggs.
The second reason is, as I already mentioned, the big breakfast on Easter Sunday. Breakfast is always my favourite meal of the day, but this one consists of everything at once. Boiled eggs, spring onions, cheese, ham (for non-vegetarians), bread … jam, Nutella, cereal … Everything, sweet and savoury, one can find in the fridge. And you eat until you can’t eat any more. My mum always puts a lot of effort into decorating the table. I attempted to do the same in Camperissimo, as much as I could with a few of our plastic bowls and plates.
The third reason is “tucanje”, or a game you play with the eggs. Each person chooses an egg, takes it in the hand and smashes it into their opponent’s egg, attempting to break it without damaging their own. Winning is mostly based on luck, except for my late grandad, Nono, who used to adopt a special tactic of almost hiding his egg within his fist and then smashing his whole fist against our eggs. He won mostly. Jay and I also played the game, which is not as exciting when you have only two players. Jay’s egg won this year.
The most important reason, though, is about being together. It’s about sitting down together, having a long, relaxed meal and enjoying each other’s company.
And even though I missed the rest of my family this Easter, my little family – Jay and Klara – were excellent company. Immediately after breakfast I emailed our photos to my brother, my mum and my dad and received photos of their breakfast in return.
So even though we were far away, we were following the same traditions, thinking of each other and managing to find a way of being together.