We’ll have two cakes at our Easter dinner at my house today, even though we barely need one.
One plate will hold a pound cake in the shape of a lamb. Another plate will hold a yellow cake in the shape of a bunny.
Including each cake is a compromise, in the name of traditions meaningful to some of the people there.
This is the first time we’ve held Easter dinner for my side of the family and my wife’s side of the family simultaneously. The cake dilemma was the first challenge in maintaining traditions while accepting modern realities.
One of the difficulties for any married couple is deciding how to celebrate holidays. As a single person, it’s common to continue going to the same places you did as a child for the holidays. When you’re married, you’re forced to choose whether to stick with your traditions or adopt your better half’s.
We’ll start with my side of the family. For decades, Easter meant going to my maternal grandmother’s house near Chicago. We crammed dozens of people into that small, modest home each spring, as all her children, grandchildren and other relations returned for that annual feast.
The constant each year was that lamb cake. At its center was a sour-cream pound cake with a recipe and mold used for decades that we still use today. It was covered with a simple white frosting and coconut slivers, with jelly beans for the eyes and nose. Depending on who you talk to, it symbolizes the Lamb of God or the lamb slaughtered for the passover feast.
It’s a tradition going back decades. My mom can’t remember an Easter without it, so obviously neither can I. When my grandmother passed away a few years ago, we stopped gathering with my aunts, uncles and cousins in Illinois, creating an Ohio version of it at my house for this branch of the family.
The bunny cake has a history all its own for my wife’s family. Her grandmother baked those two round yellow cakes each year, then crafted them into the shape of a rabbit for Easter, also decorating them with white frosting and coconut.
Their memories seem to revolve around the paper ears cut and colored by hand. Apparently my wife’s grandfather decorated them himself each year, and part of the joke was how he talked about his efforts every year.
Long after these two people died, their tradition continues, including joking about the laborious cutting and coloring of those ears.
Up until this year, these two cakes never had to coexist. My wife’s family was good enough to move its gathering to Holy Saturday, and my family’s celebration remained on Easter Sunday.
This year, as more of my siblings in my large family made tough decisions on how to celebrate the holiday, we saw attendance would be sliced in half at our celebration. That opened the door to combine the two celebrations to today.
That forced us to rethink a number of traditions.
In my family, children participate in the Easter egg hunt until they’re legally adults,whether they like it or not. In my wife’s family, you stop participating when you feel as if you’re too old for it. We’ll likely adopt her family’s tack this year.
In her family, the starches are the most important part of the meal, making rolls a pivotal part of the deal. In my family, it’s proteins, namely deviled eggs. We’ll split the difference, serving plenty of both.
At first, I was leery of changing any of these traditions. After all, things become a tradition for a reason. Then again, we’ve had a number of traditions we’ve attempted that didn’t go so well, like an Easter egg hunt using boiled, decorated eggs or requiring children to only find eggs of a certain color or with their names on them.
That’s when you realize traditions aren’t set in stone. They evolve over time, and the good ones stick around … even if we’ll have twice as much cake today as we really need.