About Culture and Easter Eggs

I was in my home country the past two weeks, although it is strange to refer to it as my home country as I have spent more than half my life in Africa and a great deal of that in Ethiopia. Anyway, every time I go there I appreciate the quality of life that has been developed there. The roads are in perfect condition with very clear signs to find your way and a public transport system that is second to none. The Netherlands rank number 6 in the World Happiness Report and the indicators used for the ranking include GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity, trust and dystopia. Having said this, it seems remarkable that at the same time I hear people complain a lot. The Happiness Report indicators however seem to look more into the software part of society, while I hear the people complain more about the infrastructures. As I have spent so many years now away from home, I realize that I have learnt to live in and love cultures that are so different from where I grew up. In fact, I have become a kind of hybrid when it comes to culture, enjoying the best of both worlds. It also means that I overlook cultural sensitivities and make mistakes on both sides of the isle as well. Last Sunday morning for example I decided to clean our apartment before departing to Addis Abeba again on Monday. So, I got hold of the vacuum cleaner and began to move it around the house. Then I opened the front door of the apartment to vacuum the gallery as well. It didn’t take a minute for angry neighbours to come out and make it abundantly clear that it was Sunday morning 8am and that I should behave normally. The protest came from the floor above me so luckily they did not see me and without a word I switched off the vacuum cleaner and went back inside. I gave it a good thought over a cup of coffee and had to admit I made a real fool of myself early on a Sunday morning when people want to sleep in and have a peaceful rest from a hard week of work, I also realized that when the sun rises in Africa, that is when the day begins and with it the noises of the neighbourhood with nobody considering whether anybody would be disturbed or not.Later that day I took the train to Amsterdam and I ended up in a so called “Silence” section of the train. Passengers are to keep quiet and have no conversations so as not to disturb other passengers who may be reading or concentrating on some work for example. A young man was sitting next to me, having his smartphone in his hand and a headset plugged in his ears, obviously listening to music. I didn’t hear anything but that is probably because my hearing is going down with my age going up. In any case, it can’t have been loud. Suddenly a young woman came from behind and addressed the man, asking him to switch off his music as she could clearly hear the noise coming from his headset (!). I was surprised that somebody could make an issue over this. It does on the other hand demonstrate how empowered citizens feel when it comes to expressing their feelings and claiming their rights. Without a word the young man obeyed and switched of his music. Mind you, the opposite also happens and the situation could easily have turned ugly. Next I went to do some last-minute shopping as most shopping centers are open on Sunday nowadays. This only developed over the past ten years or so as traditionally Sunday was observed as a day of rest, as instructed by the church. Traditionally also with Easter around the corner, the shops are stocked with Easter gifts and items like Easter eggs and bunnies, made of chocolate. In a society where the church has lost so much ground it is not surprising that many young people do not know anymore what the real meaning of Easter is. Ask anybody what the meaning of the Easter egg and the Easter bunny is and chances are they also don’t know that. The real meaning of Easter is still very much alive in Ethiopia and the forty days fasting observed by the Orthodox Christians is joyfully broken with dorro wot and other traditional food. The tradition of the Easter egg and Easter bunny is however largely unknown here. Commerce will find a way though to make sure they become a traditional feature of Easter here to. So, I looked up where these eggs and bunny came from and this is what I found. Bunnies, eggs, Easter gifts and fluffy, yellow chicks in gardening hats all stem from pagan roots. These tropes were incorporated into the celebration of Easter separately from the Christian tradition of honoring the day Jesus Christ rose from the dead. The origin of the celebration – and the origin of the Easter Bunny – can be traced back to 13th-century, pre-Christian Germany, when people worshiped several gods and goddesses.Eostra was the goddess of spring and fertility, and feasts were held in her honor. Her symbol was the rabbit because of the animal’s high reproduction rate.

Spring also symbolized new life and rebirth; eggs were an ancient symbol of fertility. According to History.com, Easter eggs represent Jesus’ resurrection. However, this association came much later when Roman Catholicism became the dominant religion in Germany in the 15th century and merged with already ingrained pagan beliefs. So now we know.

Happy Easter!