Easter for expats

Easter for expatsDo you ever feel like you’re living on a roller coaster? When I was an expat I careened from exhilarating highs to disheartening lows — sometimes in the same day.  And especially around the holidays, when heightened expectations and the ache of missing family and friends made for some stressful moments.

I’ve written before about the ingenuity required to recreate family traditions during St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, and Christmas. Of course it’s comforting to observe the familiar rituals you remember from back home, but that’s not always possible. It’s funny, though — it’s often what you do to fill in the gaps that make these times so special, not what you’ve been forced to leave out.

Doing Easter the fusion way

Although it might seem that time-honoured traditions are carved in stone, they actually evolve and adapt to new circumstances, much like successful expats do. Easter is a case in point. It’s observed in much of the the world, but probably not exactly the way you’re used to. Even minor differences can come as a shock if you’re not prepared for them.

When Easter bears little resemblance to the holiday you know and love — or isn’t acknowledged at all in your host country — you may feel as though it’s lost its meaning. You might even decide to skip it entirely, but that would be a mistake. When you celebrate occasions like this together, you’re cementing your bond as a family. These holiday traditions are too important to turn your back on, even when your changed circumstances mean they’ve been stitched together like Frankenstein’s monster.

The key to creating a fusion here/there Easter celebration is to incorporate whatever time-honoured customs you can, and improvise the rest. For example, if a turkey dinner is a significant part of Easter for you but turkeys are scarce where you live, there’s a simple solution: eat something else.

It might feel like sacrilege, but I promise it won’t matter as much as you think it will. Although tradition is a wonderful thing, we sometimes get so caught up in honouring it that we lose sight of what really matters. Let’s put it this way — what’s more important: the turkey, or sharing a special meal with loved ones?

Exactly.

The two sides of Easter 

If you’re hesitant to worship in your new country because the language or customs are unfamiliar, I urge you to take a deep breath, put on your Sunday best, and get yourself to church. Attending an Easter service or mass is a good idea for two reasons: it allows you to express your religious identity, and it helps you integrate into the local Christian community. Letting differences keep you from sharing the most joyous day of the year with fellow Christians would be a shame, don’t you think?

It’s not just the religious side of Easter that can be disorienting; the secular side may be a little dissimilar as well. Either way, it’s a good idea to make your children aware of any changes ahead of time. The younger they are, the more time they’ll need to adjust their expectations.

My kids worried that the Easter Bunny wouldn’t know where to find them after we moved to Singapore. This is a pretty common concern, especially with a first move. A little parental reassurance (and in my case, some last-minute scrambling) goes a long way toward calming their fears.

Easter is a celebration of new beginnings

Easter is a holiday that rejoices in the symbolism of new beginnings. For expats — whose lives are a series of new beginnings — it’s an ideal time to reflect on the present and look ahead to the future.

Even though a measure of creativity may be required to pull it off, a special family Easter can be yours no matter where in the world you are. It may be observed differently (or not at all) in your host country, but like all flexible expats, you’ll figure out how to adapt your traditions to the circumstances — perhaps mixing in some local customs to create a unique hybrid version of the holiday. These new Easter traditions might even become so entrenched in your family’s psyche that they endure for generations to come.

And if this is your first Easter, I hope you’ll try to experience some of this wonderful holiday and perhaps create some new traditions of your own. May they all involve chocolate.

A version of this article originally appeared on Suite101.com on March 18, 2010 © Maria Foley.
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About Maria

I'm a Canadian repatriate, former expat spouse, mother to two TCKs (and one yellow Lab), mentor to new immigrants, writer, reader, world traveller (grounded for now). I write about expat/repat issues and am still trying to figure out my place in the world.
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