Friday, 3 April 2015

The religion of chocolate

Hello and Happy Easter.

Today, in the Christian world, is Good Friday - a sacred day and one that holds great significance for many people. In fact, it's estimated that nearly a third of the world's population is Christian.

Given that, how seriously do we view the Easter weekend?

Over the years, I have been privileged to spend Easter in a number of countries other than my own; I spent an Easter in England, I spent another in Quebec, one in Singapore and yet another Easter in Italy.

In Italy and Quebec, I noticed that they tended - based on my observation only - to follow the religious aspect of Easter. In Singapore, Buddhism and Islam are well represented but there is also a large Christian community which respects the religious significance of Easter.

The English seemed to celebrate Easter very similarly to the way we do here in Australia - no big surprise there - and it's interesting to note that we are tending to drift away from Christianity. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the number of Australians claiming no religious affliation is on the increase. Some stats I have seen suggest that nearly a quarter of us claim no religion.

Why then, do retail figures indicate that the sale of Easter eggs and other Easter treats are at record levels?

We seem to be eating an awful lot of Easter goodies for a population that is largely indifferent toward Christianity. I suppose you could argue that as our population grows the numbers of people both recognising and not recognising a religion is growing incrementally as well.

Would I be right in my assumption, that here in Australia, we're more interested in eating chocolate eggs and enjoying an extra long weekend than observing the meaning behind Easter?

This isn't a criticism by any means, after all, I love Easter eggs and time off work as much as anyone, (although as a writer, there's very little downtime - no such thing as a weekend let alone a long weekend).

I used to travel for work with a Jewish colleague, Sarah. One Easter, Sarah and I found ourselves in a hotel in a city nearly 5,000 kilometers from home. Sarah told me that she'd never eaten an Easter egg and didn't understand the significance of them.

Well, this was all the prompting I needed. I explained the symbolic representation of rebirth and the resurrection of Jesus - some churches paint them red to signify the blood of Christ. But once we got past the theory, I popped out to a supermarket and bought a pile of my favourite Red Tulip eggs.

Needless to say, Sarah and I enjoyed a work-free afternoon, propped on the bed in her room, eating Easter eggs and watching a Harrison Ford movie. When I look back, I smile to myself  - I was, after all, brought up as a Catholic, and to spend Easter eating Easter eggs in a hotel room with a Jewish girl while watching adventure films is just too incongruous. 

But it stands out as being one of my most enjoyable Easters!

These days, I'm not overly religious. I have a fundamental Christian belief system that, for the most part, is incompatible with my spiritual beliefs, but I do tend to feel closer to Christianity at Easter and Christmas.

I am, however, a great lover of chocolate, and more than happy to adhere to the custom of giving, receiving and eating Easter eggs.

Until next week, Happy Easter, enjoy the holiday in a way that suits you best and remember that the Easter long weekend is one of the more dangerous ones on our roads so be safe!

Easter eggs

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