Monday, 5 April 2010

Adrift without family, panning for ritual

One of the strangest things about being overseas is dealing with holidays. Holidays like Easter or Christmas are rooted in family, and without that root it's easy to feel adrift. That's how I was feeling this weekend, with everyone we knew away with family, and unsure how to distinguish Easter from every other day of the year. In New Zealand both Good Friday and Easter Monday are public holidays, which is great if you work in an office, but not if you're trying to write a book in a cafe amidst the influx of all those families. Also, Kiwi cafes laugh in the face of the recession and whack a 15% surcharge on bills on public holidays - the nerve!

The question came up - So, what do we do on Easter? Without family or a community or annual rituals like a church service and lunch, or even an Easter egg hunt to celebrate with, it felt like something was missing. And I do miss my family and can't wait to see them in June (hi mom and dad), but we had to get on with things and try to make Easter ourselves. That's the bad/ good thing about being away from home on a holiday, we're forced to create our own rituals.

We've done this ritual creation before in the UK, especially at Christmas. In 2007, our first Christmas in London, unable to face spending the holidays in our damp, claustrophobic studio, we splashed out on a 5 star hotel on We stocked up on chocolates and Baileys from Marks and Spencers and on Christmas day walked two hours to Fulham to eat at one of the few restaurants serving dinner. London is peacefully deserted on Christmas day, and walking through Mayfair and Chelsea with the city to ourselves, looking for a meal, we felt like a modern day Mary and Joseph. Sort of.

In 2008 we opened our home up for an Orphans' Christmas dinner. We took in about ten other internationals adrift in London without family and ended up eating turkey with friends from Thailand, Korea, Japan and America. We watched Wallace and Gromit, played games from our English teaching days and wore our Christmas cracker hats, taking it all in. I was quick to point out that the fruitcake we served, at Dan's insistence, was decidedly not an American Christmas tradition.

These holidays will always remain precious to me, because they're a bit different, and because we were forced to make them into what we wanted them to be. I'm not talking about the religious significance of the holiday, but the activities and traditions we put into place to celebrate.

This Easter we decided to start the day with a banana pancake fest, followed by reading the Easter story together. We went for a walk to Ladies Bay and meandered through the nice houses leading back home, pointing out our favorites. Then we watched Jesus Christ Superstar (because Dan's brother loves it) for another and indeed heretical take on the Easter story, sans the resurrection but with a lot of funk.

So that was our Easter. What about you? What did you get up to? Do you have any rituals I could steal for next year?

{Photo from flickr: Abstract Gourmet}


Jenny said...

i'll have you know that fruit cake was a tradition in or family for years...until i finally convinced my mom that no one liked it ;)

did you dye eggs? that's one tradition i brought back this year, thanks to my mom.

Nadine said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful Easter! We haven't had an Easter with family in four years but we've started our traditions. Every year we do a mini egg hunt for each other and we have eggs benedict, cinnamon rolls and mimosas.

Prince said...

I made "He is Risen" rolls for my friends. You dip a large marshmallow in melted butter, then dip it in sugar (white or brown), sprinkle cinnamon on it then wrap it in crescent roll dough. Bake following the dough recipe and when you open them up the little "tomb" inside is empty! Death is concurred, man is free...Christ has won the victory!!! And they are a great teaching tool about the Resurrection for kids and adults alike :)

alisha said...

Eggs benedict, cinnamon rolls and mimosas sound perfect! Also, love the He is Risen rolls and dying eggs...will file for next year. :0

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