Sunday, April 20, 2014


We are not religious.  Karel and I are atheists, and while some of my family (extended and immediate) may be Christians, most of them are so distant that it doesn't matter, and the ones that are less distant don't care enough to proselytize.  So when I first moved to this little weird country, with its proclamation of tolerance and religious acceptance (Geert Wilders notwithstanding), it was a little surprising to discover that the succession of holidays in the spring include:  Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Easter Monday, Pentecost, and the Ascension.  I'm still not sure what the Pentecost is about.

But okay, you live here, you go with the flow.  The Flow, in my case, includes mad-long two-day excursions (Easter Sunday and Monday) with giant brunches and impressive dinners, filled with people I am legally related to but somehow can never remember the names of.  Thus, I learned that Easter is a big deal here--as if the booklets of ads put out by every large chain weren't clue enough.

What I didn't realize, much to my chagrin, is that it's a Big Deal in the US, as well.  If I hadn't had kidlet and therefore logged onto baby websites, I'd have never known this.  As I said, not being religious, Easter got filed under holidays like Rosh Hashannah (there are apparently a lot of Jews on the Eastern Seaboard):  someone else's religion giving me a day off, and chocolate rabbits going on sale the day after.  It never occurred to me that you're supposed to exchange presents, put up elaborate decorations, and eat tons of candy--i.e., celebrate a pastel version of Christmas.

So a few things about Easter in the Netherlands:
  1. Egg hunts are very much a thing.  Not just in expat circles, either--several moms at the egg hunt we went to the other day said that their kids were already egg-hunted-out.  
  2. You cannot find egg-dyeing kits anywhere.  Egg stickers?  Sure.  An egg-painting kit?  No problem.  But dyeing eggs is apparently too messy for the fastidious Dutch.  
  3. It is traditional for snobby folks to attend a rendition of Bach's St. Matthew's Passion.  You don't have to be religious to appreciate good music, but it probably helps if you like Bach (I don't). 
On a personal level, I'm never really sure what to make of Easter. It just seems like a really weird holiday--to commemorate the gruesome, horrific death of the Son of God, by...painting eggs and petting bunnies?  Okay, okay, so you go to church, too--but I can't be the first person who is somewhat baffled by the disconnect between a crucifixion, which is ostensibly the thing that we are celebrating, and the general cuteness of the paraphrenalia that surrounds the holiday.  (And yes, I'm aware that Easter coincides with pagan ideas about the spring and fertility and all that, and that these pagan ideas are where the bunnies and chicks come from.)

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