Even as a kid, Easter was a conundrum. One the one hand, we got Loot. On the other, we had to put our best clothes and go to church for long, LONG time. Growing up in a Southern Baptist Church in southeastern Tennessee in the 1970′s Church was already slightly longer than a glacial epoch on the average day, Easter services were somewhere around a geological period. One could rely on Special Singing, the Enthusiastic Witnesses, the Super Sermon, multiple Altar Calls and the Lord’s Supper (crackers and grape juice) Since even the Sinners made it on Easter Sunday, the hand shaking portion after the service was excruciating. (By my estimation, the first Easter service I recall started on March 30th 1975 and ended sometime late in the Reagan Administration.) All the while you are dressed in clothes still scratchy from the rack at Sears and bouncing up and down in anticipation of the Important Business of filling your basket with Easter Loot.
The Easter Loot was another confusion. As a Christian holiday, Easter Eggs and candy left by a giant anthropomorphic rabbit didn’t really fit the narrative. One of the Big Questions raised in Sunday School during the weeks preceding Easter was “Is the Easter Bunny an Angel, or does he work specifically for Jesus?”. Or the popular “Did the Disciples eat colored eggs at the Last Supper?’. You see, none of our Easter Traditions seemed to fit in with the frankly depressing story of Jesus showing up in Jerusalem, getting tortured, killed and then coming back from the grave. Face it, when a six year old can spot the obvious “how does chocolate fit into the Resurrection story?” issue, someone needs to have answers. (Christmas never posed an issue, after all it was Jesus’ BIRTHDAY and presents are part of birthdays!)
Now, I understand and in context it makes quite a bit of sense. The same way a Church back in the 70′s would use a their reputation for hosting the best potluck dinners and sermons laced with allegorical college football stories to bring the unbelievers to the Word, the early church co-opted pagan symbology. Rabbits and eggs really aren’t Lincoln Logs in a sock drawer, they are potent metaphors for faith, hope and renewal. I tried for some time to work chocolate into the equation, and finally decided it didn’t need to fit, it’s freakin’ chocolate!
I am given to understand little has changed down South, children still squirm in uncomfortable new clothes during interminable sermons waiting for the chance to fill their baskets. While I am not religious, I like that Easter still retains the mystery of the Egg and Rabbit for those who are. The knowledge that somewhere in a sweltering Southern Church (and they are always sweltering, even in the depths of Winter) a little boy or girl is bouncing on a pew waiting to get out in the new grass and beat the crap out their cousin over a pale blue egg tucked beneath a flowering Forsythia. After all, it really is about family.
Honestly, the confetti cannons are the coolest part of the Lunar New Year Parade. I can’t imagine WHY they are not more popular?
Flushing Queens’ Asian population continues to boom and slowly but surely the annual Lunar New Year Parade is eclipsing the older Manhattan parade. Last year 4,000 participants blasted confetti into the air and sought good fortune in the New Year. This year looks to have exceeded that number, even with the Winter without End.
The Polar Bear Plunge is a New Year’s tradition in climates where only a fool, a mad man or the extremely brave would run into a freezing ocean on January 1st. New York City has not shortage any all of the above. The Coney Island Polar Bear Club sponsors the annual Polar Bear Plunge on New Years Day.
Today the air temperature was 31 degrees, the water a balmy 41 degrees and still 2,500 people took their clothes off and ran into the ocean.
This was my first year heading out to Coney Island for the plunge. As with most things like this, the photographers were almost as thick as the participants. There is something about bikinis and elderly men with cameras that just draw one another. (I attended purely for the sake of art!)
I will say that I managed to capture more genuine, unguarded emotions today than any other event I’ve shot. Admittedly, those emotions were mainly shock, surprise, pain and cold, but NO ONE was trying to hide them!
If you missed the Plunge but would still like to experience “shrinkage” don’t worry the Polar Bears swim every Sunday between November and April.