Monday, 30 November -0001

The Lady Guide to Modern Manners: 27 March

Isn’t it about time we resurrected our sadly neglected Easter traditions? Thomas Blaikie hunts them down

Written by Thomas Blaikie
Dear Thomas,
Last year, while staying away for Easter, I was distressed to find that my hosts observed not one of the Easter traditions as regards food or flowers, let alone religion. In an increasingly secular age, is this too much to expect? Sophie Mount, Horsham

Dear Sophie,
Christmas may be more and more a secular and commercial festival. At least those who celebrate it, even if of no religion or a religion other than Christian, have some idea of the Christmas story and some response to its meaning. But Easter, for other than the devout, is just a post-winter minibreak in a hired cottage or staying with friends, the main idea (usually not fulfilled) being to prance around in the spring sunshine in the manner of a newborn lamb. Crucifixion followed by Resurrection just doesn’t have the mass appeal of a little baby in a manger.

You don’t have to be excessively religious, or even religious at all, to feel the loss. So, if you want to revive Easter as it should be, here’s how to do it. Good Friday should, of course, be subdued. You may cut „flowers, but you should not arrange them. Store them in buckets for the next day, which will be a huge „flower day. A small group to lunch or dinner is possible, but no great festive throng. Fish is the traditional food, but there’s not much point now because it’s so expensive. All the same, avoid expensive meat. You’ve always got hot-cross buns to look forward to at teatime.

Easter Saturday is a strange day, because although Christ did not rise from the dead until the Sunday morning, it is as if Easter has begun. You should fill your home with spring „flowers, which are mostly yellow. Primroses, da†ffodils and forsythia. Ideally they should come from your garden. Avoid chrysanthemums, which are a winter „florists’ „ flower. At teatime you have a cake. Some say a simnel cake is traditional, although there is argument as to what exactly a simnel cake is. A Victoria sponge (square for important occasions) with primrose icing and decorated with crystallised violets is a perfect substitute. The children should have an Easter egg hunt out of doors if it is fine. Remember that it is vital that every child finds an egg.

On Easter Day, the breakfast eggs must be pink. Put food colouring in the water. Don’t let the children have their Easter eggs until after lunch. Then comes the lamb. I’ve banged on about this before. Lamb is the correct Easter Day lunch. In the Bible the chosen people were instructed to eat it roasted with bitter herbs while sitting on their baggage prior to setting out from Egypt for the Promised Land.

Please send your questions to thomas.blaikie@lady.co.uk or write to him at The Lady, 39-40 Bedford Street, London WC2E 9ER

WHAT TO DO ABOUT... PETS THAT PONG

This could be one for you if you’re staying away for Easter. One of my correspondents writes about her friend’s pungent retriever. It sits in its own chair in the kitchen, but its owner won’t take any hint to have coffee in another room. Vita Sackville-West had some old dogs, but at least she knew they were smelly. ‘Corner, Rollo,’ she used to say if the unfortunate creatures ever got too near to the dining table and any visitors. Sissinghurst had the advantage of being quite big.

One of Queen Alexandra’s dogs had died and she kept it on a cushion in her room. After some days, you were ‘nearly knocked down with the smell’, the lady-in-waiting said. Then they had egg sandwiches for tea and somebody said, ‘Just like the dog’ (meaning the smell). Whereupon they all had hysterics, including the Queen, and the lady-in-waiting seized the moment to get the dog taken away.

I’m afraid I’m rather stumped as to how to deal with a living stinker. Any suggestions from readers would be most welcome.


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