If you were to conduct a survey of New Zealand school children, asking them what Easter is all about, I think almost all of them would answer “the Easter Bunny!” Easter is a Christian tradition celebrating the resurrection of Christ and is considered the most important celebration in the Christian calendar, but for a country like New Zealand that over the past few years has become more and more secular, Easter has become less about faith and more about chocolate eggs and bunny rabbits! According to Wikipedia, only 55% of the population now call themselves some sort of Christian (Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian etc), which means for the other 45% it is simply a lovely long weekend with plenty of sweet treats!
The imagery around Easter is all about new life, new growth etc – and in the Northern Hemisphere this all fits. In the Southern Hemisphere however, Easter falls in autumn – the leaves are falling from the trees, the days are getting shorter, the nights are getting colder and Daffodils couldn’t be further from blooming in the garden! This doesn’t seem to stop us Kiwi’s though, and in the same way we put fake snow around the windows at Christmas in an attempt at creating our very own “white Christmas” (despite it being 30degrees outside!) all the cards, emails, and advertising surrounding Easter consistently stays with pictures of daffodils and yellow baby chickens, and of course rabbits.
New Zealand does not really have the tradition of painting eggs and decorating trees and gardens with them like you see in many parts of Europe. Kiwis do however LOVE the chocolate eggs and bunny rabbits that seem to fill the stores and it is traditional for many families to leave a little selection of Easter eggs for children to wake up to on Easter Sunday morning.
In recent times, it would seem the most commonly discussed Easter topic in New Zealand is gardening. Yes, you read that right, gardening. Let me explain… Stemming from NZ’s more Christian history, it is illegal for retailers and most of the hospitality industry to open on either Good Friday or Easter Sunday (except in many of the tourist towns like Taupo or Queenstown). Historically this is because these are such important religious days for the Christian faith that it was made law that everyone should be at home with family and able to go to Church. In modern-day NZ, more people want to use this long weekend to socialize with friends, go shopping or… get all their gardening done before winter sets in! In what many people see as a controversial decision, many garden supply stores continue to open on these religious days as they know that these two days present the opportunity for them to make a LOT of money. As the penalty fine is relatively small, most of these garden retailers would rather pay this and remain open to make the most of the biggest money-making weekend of the year! This issue makes the news every year in NZ, and yet the laws remain in place – why?! Perhaps because despite our country turning away from the religious aspect of these traditional festivals, everyone still appreciates the extra day’s holiday! 😉