Like many others I grew up celebrating Easter. We weren’t a particularly religious family but we always went to church on Easter morning. I always had a new dress to wear and generally it was a beautiful sunny day with flowers blooming and birds chirping. We would go to my Grandma Anna’s house or my Aunt Diane’s house after church so it was also a fun opportunity to see family and celebrate. The day before Easter my mom would boil the eggs while I looked over her shoulder. I looked forward to this time with my mom in the kitchen. Once the eggs cooled down, my brother and I would decorate our Easter eggs together. It was a fun family time. For my brother and I, the best part was waking up in the morning to find our Easter baskets filled with candy and the colored eggs the Easter bunny had put in our basket. I think we’d eat a few of the hardboiled eggs for breakfast but generally it was an excuse to eat candy in the morning. For a kid, it doesn’t get much better. We’d quickly lose interest in the eggs we had boiled and decorated and my mom would make them into egg salad for future lunches.
Once I had kids I looked forward to celebrating all of the traditions I had as a kid and Easter was one of them. Once my daughter was old enough to walk it was a given that we would also color eggs so the Easter bunny could hide them in the morning and she could hunt for them in our NYC apartment. After that, she’d look in her Easter Basket to see what the Easter bunny had left for her. I always wanted the focus to be little bit less on the candy, since we didn’t need a sugar overloaded toddler–so I would also include some sort of bunny-themed book (The Velveteen Rabbit was her first Easter book) and usually a stuffed bunny. She loved Easter morning! Of course it’s very exciting for children to celebrate holidays where they wake up in the morning to have a surprise basket filled with candy and gifts. After the initial coloring of the Easter eggs, which she definitely enjoyed since she’s always had a love of art, her favorite thing to do was have us hide the eggs repeatedly and find them again. After she’d lost interest in hiding and finding the eggs, we’d make a big batch of egg salad that seemed to last forever.
Soon after I became vegan, Easter arrived! I hadn’t thought how being vegan would impact our Easter celebration. My daughter was 6 and my son was 2. I struggled with how to celebrate Easter. I was firm in my beliefs that eating eggs wasn’t good for the environment, the animals, or our health. At the same time, it made me sad to think my children would miss out on the tradition of coloring Easter eggs I had enjoyed so much as a child. I love family traditions and I think many vegans struggle with this issue. I was hoping that as my children learned more about my lifestyle they would naturally gravitate toward a vegan lifestyle. However, I wanted my kids to grow up WANTING to be vegan and not feel like they had a mean mommy that chose animal rights over the happiness of her children. At this point they were both vegetarian and mostly vegan but I hadn’t really got into all of the ins and outs of being 100 percent vegan.
So that Easter, I boiled the eggs and let them color and decorate them. I didn’t want them to miss out on the fun other kids had on Easter. When the other kids talked about it at school, I didn’t want them to feel like they missed out because of their vegan mommy. I did the best I could to justify my decision by purchasing organic free-range eggs–although I know that doesn’t really make it much better. I also justified it to myself by saying it was only once a year and we weren’t otherwise eating eggs. But after all was said and done, I still didn’t feel good about it. To make matters worse, we had a dozen eggs that nobody really wanted to eat. If there is one thing I hate more than eating animal products, it’s wasting animal products. I also came to realize, the kids just really wanted to hide and find the eggs, not eat them. They could hide and find anything!!
So in our family, the tradition of coloring Easter eggs ended that year. I realized we could start our own healthier and more compassionate traditions. My daughter had already come to the conclusion on her own that she didn’t want to eat eggs because she didn’t want to eat a baby chicken. Thankfully, I didn’t have to go into the complex issues of the egg industry (that go beyond just consumption of eggs) to convince her. I’ve discovered my kids respond well to the facts and are very compassionate towards animals. Once I was just honest with how I felt, they come to the same conclusions as mine. My son didn’t need much convincing. He’d never eaten eggs, and for better or worse, he’ll use any excuse to refuse to eat a particular food.
The following Easter, when my daughter was seven and my son was three, we found other ways to celebrate Easter. We realized we could paint and decorate anything! We started our own traditions. We continued getting them a bunny-themed book that actually celebrates the lives of animals as well as a stuffed bunny. They are slowly accumulating a sweet little bunny family that provides hours of entertainment. However, in our family, we now use plastic eggs that can still be decorated but also filled with any type of treat. The added bonus is they can be hidden repeatedly with no fear of finding a lost rotten egg a month after Easter has ended. If you ask my daughter, she’ll tell you that she has it way better than other kids because she gets more candy via the plastic eggs. What I also realized was that as a child, it wasn’t that I had a deep love for coloring Easter eggs or eating hard-boiled eggs for that matter. What I loved about coloring the Easter eggs was the time spent with my mom. So in our family, we’ve recreated Easter in a way that incorporates my new values but also keeps the parts of Easter’s past that I’d treasured. My kids create Easter decorations that we hang on the wall. Last year, they made an Easter book for my husband and me. You can find endless ideas for Easter projects online and many only require construction paper, crayons or markers, and glue. You can even paint and decorate wooden eggs or using other art materials to create eggs. This year, we’re also planning to make bunny-shaped vegan shortbread cookies.
I’ve also heard the Easter bunny has found a replacement for PEEPS too! This year he will be bringing Sweet and Sara’s Peepers and Skippers. There are plenty of candy options that are vegan including vegan jellybeans. You can see a list of some of the vegan candy options. Many brands’ dark chocolate are vegan–just make sure to check the ingredients.
With my kids, I am continuing the part of the tradition that really mattered to me. We are spending time together as a family. I’m happy that we’ve found a way to celebrate the holiday in a fun way that is also compassionate towards the little animals that are so adorable in their books and Easter decorations. My kids don’t feel like they are missing out on anything. As for the endless mounds of egg salad of Easters past, I don’t miss that for a minute.
Photo: Extra-Minty via Flickr; Dr. Joolz via Flickr