Easter eggs and rites of passage

I KNOW where Australians get their strength of character from.

It’s supposed to be from the tough time they had trying to tear a living from the harsh and unforgiving terrain, but it’s not.

It’s from Easter egg hunts.

Most societies have rites of passage, like chucking yourself at the ground from a high tower with only vines wrapped round your ankles, or laying on a mound of red ants or — incredible, but apparently true — bludgeoning your willy with a rock, but here in modern Australia we have Easter egg hunts.

Elsewhere in the world Easter egg hunts have nothing to do with passing from innocence to adulthood. You simply find eggs and eat them.

But not here. Tomorrow we are having an Easter egg hunt. For children. I think someone should tell the social welfare people.

An Easter egg hunt in Australia is a life-threatening experience – and that doesn’t even include the cholestorel levels or the palpitations caused by too much cocoa.

There will be five children here tomorrow, all of a size whose fists will fit down a small hole… the kind of hole that would also fit a funnel web spider.

They’ll stuff chocolate eggs into their mouths without removing either the foil wrapping or the ants. Big ants. That sting.

Theyll rush blindly into high grass and leap over logs to find eggs around which a taipan has coiled itself like cotton round a reel.

While half of Australia’s native fauna is trying to kill them I’ll be dying of a heart attack from the worry as I panic in their wake, blurting: “be careful… not there… don’t!… stop!… come out…”

Those that survive will be fit for the second stage of initiation – the sharing out. It stands to reason that a child of six years is going to find more eggs than a child of three (and possibly get bitten by more creatures, too, but we’re past that stage).

There’s also a certain childlike logic in the idea that, having found them, they should get to eat them. But although a child of three may not be able to find eggs, it can certainly tell when it’s being deprived of its fair share.

They’ll be arguments. A grown-up will intervene. Probably me. It’s a no-win situation. After a short and distressing redistribution someone… some child… will hate me. Possible their parents, too.

But it’s not over yet. There follows the actual eating of the eggs. If you thought Easter eggs were colourful things in their festive wrappers – wait till they’ve been regurgitated. It’s one of nature’s laws that although Easter eggs are found outdoors and very often consumed outdoors, they are always thrown up on the carpet. Or the sofa.

Everyone will be philosophical about it… “Oh well, they’re just kids… can’t be helped.”

It’s not their sofa. It’s my sofa. Mine and my wife’s.

My wife will say: “You shouldn’t have upset them by redistributing the eggs.”

This is where Australians learn their survival skills – not in an endless battle to scratch a living from the soil, or stoic fortitude in the face of cyclone, plague and earthquake; but by making it through family celebrations without killing or being killed.

Happy Easter!