Lett's Set A Spell

Easter customs in the country
Mar. 24, 2013 @ 12:00 PM

Just as the cycle of the moon influenced everything related to planting and harvesting on the Lett family farm, it affected the timing of Easter. After the Spring Equinox came, the full moon and then a sacred event, Easter. 

In the Age of Grandpa and Grandma (Puzie and Verta Lett), Easter did not bring new clothes but a special treat ­— all the boiled eggs the young’uns could eat. “Sometimes the young’uns would have a contest about who could eat the most eggs,” Grandpa told me.

After a hearty breakfast, Grandpa, Grandma, their young’uns and the many fine folks of Buckhorn community headed for church. While there wasn’t enough money for fancy frocks and new suits, everyone put on their finest clothes, their Sunday go-to-meeting outfits, and attended Sunday School and preachin’.  

EVERY SPRING, folks heard the same story about Christ who died on the cross for their sins … each year they loved it more. Following a long service, all the kinfolk gathered at Grandpa and Grandma’s house where the cook stove was fired up for frying and baking. The wood heater often brought warmth to the chill. Everyone stuffed themselves with the best chicken and dumplings, fried chicken and biscuits they’d ever eaten.

The young’uns couldn’t sit still ... after all, they were excited about the Easter egg hunt. The day before, Grandma and the girls had spent hours in the kitchen brewing up dye from berries, leaves and flowers, and then using the rainbow shades to color the boiled eggs. Now Grandma and Grandpa would hide them, and everyone got to eat what they found, and that was prize enough! 

NEW CUSTOMS evolved on the Lett farm in the1930s — the children would create nests in a secluded place in the house, barn or garden. Boys would use their caps and girls their old hats to make the nests and on Easter morning there would be treats similar to Christmas — usually fruit and hard candy. The use of elaborate baskets would come later as the tradition of the Easter bunny spread throughout the country.

Why a bunny? Grandpa consulted “The Farmers Almanac,” which stated the bunny was an ancient symbol of the moon. According to the “Almanac,” Eostre or Eastre, the mythical goddess of fertility changed a bird into a rabbit, which explains why the Easter bunny started building nests and filling them with colored eggs.  

AS MY SISTER Mary Carolyn and I grew up in the 1960s, we spent weeks planning our Easter outfits. Mama (Ruby Lett) made our dresses from carefully selected patterns and fabrics. Daddy (Bud) even took us to downtown Sanford but hung out at the dime store as we shopped for hats, gloves, and snow white or black patent leather shoes. Sometimes my brother Jimmy Doyle was treated to store-bought pants, shirt and tie.

On Easter Sunday, our whole family looked like an ad in the Sears & Roebuck catalog as we headed for church like our ancestors before us. We honored the House of the Lord by sprucing up and carrying the Good Book in our hands.  

SPRING’S ARRIVAL brought warmer weather so family and neighbors often headed for the Cape Fear River on the Saturday before Easter where they fished and later cooked their catch for supper. As Easter Monday became a holiday in North Carolina, the group often returned to the river until a new attraction kept them a little closer home — Puzie’s Pond, which was made from the creek that ran through the Lett farm and located near our farmhouse.

The moon was right, our spirits were light and our futures bright as we felt the tomb of winter fade away. We relished the joy of the Easter season and the carefree days of spring.  

AlexSandra Lett is a professional speaker and the author of “Natural Living, From Stress to Rest;” “A Timeless Place, Lett’s Set a Spell at the Country Store;” “Timeless Moons, Seasons of the Fields and Matters of the Heart;” “Timeless Recipes and Remedies, Country Cooking, Customs, and Cures;” and “Coming Home to my Country Heart, Timeless Reflections about Work, Family, Health, and Spirit.” Lett can be reached at (919) 258-9299 or LettsSetaSpell@aol.com.