The Season of Promise and Hope and New Life

Books Bygone: The Season of Promise and Hope and New Life
Marica Bernstein

Long, long ago, in a time far, far away—that would be before the days of Pinterest—crafty souls got their creative inspiration from magazines and books. These “idea” books often focused on a specific season or holiday and provided not just ideas but also step-by-step illustrated instructions on how to make, for example, an adorable Easter Bunny Centerpiece using little more than paper towels, crepe paper, and paste. As Easter is “the season of promise and hope and new life” which “each of us wants to celebrate in the spirit of love and kindness,” I’ve begun to look through the Easter Idea Book (1954) for inspiration.

The worn jacket of this book bygone—checked out many times before it was discarded by a regional library—lists the general content: Lenten dishes, ham, cakes and breads, parties, eggs, centerpieces, favors, gifts, baskets, cards, plants. Whew! Looks as if there’s something for crafty souls of all sorts.

Before the multitude of recipes, including one for Easter Bunny and Chick Cupcakes (cute as a button), and creative ideas for Easter Baskets, including one decorated with crepe paper roses (lovely), the author ponders some very important questions about Easter customs. Considering the egg, she asks, “How did it become identified with Easter?” She speculates, “A connection can easily be thought out between the emergence of the world from original chaos and the emergence of Christ from the tomb” just as a chick emerges from the egg. But how, “in our modern American version the egg got to be identified with a rabbit instead of a hen is a puzzle.” The rabbit’s inclusion in Easter lore is obvious—we all know what rabbits do with such fertile abandon when they’re not hopping down the bunny trail. “But why he is responsible for Easter eggs is still a mystery.”

The author is clearly a practically minded person. In the chapter devoted to ham—“our traditional holiday meat”—she recognizes that many families “sadly miss out” because “a ham is too much for a small family.” She therefore includes several easy recipes for leftover ham. Ham and Macaroni sounds delicious. It’s nothing but ham, macaroni, and a little white sauce topped with Parmesan cheese baked for about 20 minutes. On the other hand, I think I’ll pass on the Shad Roe for Easter brunch, though the Smoked Fish in Cream sounds good.

Her practicality extends into the craft and decorating sections of the book. There are no materials that one wouldn’t have on hand or be able to find in town. The Bunny Napkin-Holder requires only thin cardboard (poster board?) and your freehand drawing of a bunny whose arms extend outward and are pasted together to hold the folded napkin. So easy even the kids can make them!

Here’s another of her practical and fun ideas based on her belief that “every well-equipped home should have at least one bulletin board.” Decorate a board with birds and other spring-like symbols. “In the center of the board list all the signs of spring to watch for. … Present it to a youngster with a box of stars. Tell him to paste a star beside each sign of spring as he discovers it.”

For those who sew, knit, crochet, or do tatting, she includes instructions for hankies, table scarves, plant and pot holders to give as small gifts to lady friends. That’s what folks did back in days bygone. Such a nice idea, don’t you think? If you are among those who cannot sew or tat, consider the gift of an Easter plant which “epitomizes the spirit of the season.” (I wouldn’t mind a George Tabor azalea!)

Easter Idea Book. Charlotte Adams. M. Barrows and Company, Incorporated, New York. 1954. Available at online booksellers and the West Point Public Library.

This article appeared originally in the April 10, 2014 issue of the Webster Progress Times.

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Filed under Cookbooks, Homemaking, Social Life

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