Easter Egg Tradition – Just Because We Always Have
One misconception about veganism I’ve encountered more than once is the assumption that as we honor our values, we must forego tradition – as if these two things are mutually exclusive. Food-related rituals, particularly those involving animals, are likely to be so revered that they supersede consideration for anything or anyone else.
Take the Easter Egg. Though how a rabbit came to deliver chicken’s eggs leaves me somewhat muddled, the egg is our culture’s quintessential symbol of spring, life, birth, and renewal. And that’s the point: it’s a symbol. In being attached to the form (eggs at Easter, turkeys at Thanksgiving), we risk losing the true meaning of whatever it is we are celebrating or honoring, especially when we harm someone in the process. But when we uncover the meanings of these symbols, we find that a plant-based menu indeed reflects the significance of our traditional holidays.
Though I don’t consume birds’ eggs now, growing up, I remember with fondness our family’s annual egg-decorating ritual and the egg hunts that followed, but those memories have less to do with the eggs themselves and more to do with the fact that the whole family was involved, I was given full license to be creative, and I ran around with great anticipation with all our neighborhood friends.
Just because animals now are on my guest list and not my menu, nothing is sacrificed to enjoy this holiday: not the fun of the quest, not the expression of creativity, not the building of community, not the animals.
Our romantic attachment to certain traditions reminds me of Shirley Jackson’s 1948 haunting short story called “The Lottery,” about the annual selection of a sacrificial victim in a small American town. In it, Shirley Jackson sheds light on humanity’s tendency to cling blindly to meaningless rituals and participate in pointless violence.
“There’s always been a lottery,” one of the townspeople in Jackson’s story declares when he hears that a neighboring village has given up this empty ritual. We justify our use of animals in a similar way, but just because we always have done something doesn’t mean we always have to.
With a little creativity and a lot of sensitivity, we will find that we can indeed adhere to traditions while honoring our values. We need not sacrifice one for the other.