Easter is upon us! Enjoy the beautiful 4-day long weekend coming your way. Irrespective of whether you are religious or not, long weekends are a great time to catch up with family and friends and de-stress from your busy pace. I’d like to challenge you to explore one different way of doing something this weekend. Even if you just brush your teeth with a different hand or expand your knowledge by learning from someone else’s tradition.
Eggs are an ancient symbol of new life, and have been associated with pagan festivals to celebrate spring for millennia. In the northern hemisphere, the spring equinox falls in March, and symbolises the end of winter. The Persian New Year, Nowruz, is also celebrated in early spring and uses coloured and decorated eggs as a symbol of fertility. The oldest surviving decorated egg dates back to the fourth century AD!
The other common symbol for Easter is the rabbit. The Easter Bunny comes from the German tradition of the Osterhase, literally the Easter hare. While the exact origin of this tradition is unknown, it is likely that eggs and rabbits became tied together due to their abundance in spring.
Three years ago, I was in the Baci chocolate factory in Italy with my family. The tour guide mentioned that they do not have the Easter Bunny in Italy as my then five-year-old was puzzled by all the eggs in the factory as opposed to bunnies laying them. She quickly read my face, and he was reassured that they in fact have a magic chicken that lays chocolate eggs.
I spent Easter last year in the gorgeous town of Cefalu, Sicily. On Good Friday we attended the Solenne Processione, Solemn Procession, which winds through the city with sacred images of Jesus and Mary. I found this celebration to be very sombre and even scary.
In Brazil, Rio Carnival is a massive festival held in the week before Lent every year. Originally a Greek spring festival to celebrate Dionysus, the god of wine, Rio Carnival is considered the biggest party in the world, with over a million tourists attending the festival in 2015, spending US$782 million!
Speaking of Greek gods, did you know that the cross on a hot cross bun originally symbolised the horns of a bull? The bull is a symbol of Zeus and cakes were baked as an offering to him. Many myths and traditions have been associated with hot cross buns, including that if you hang one in your kitchen on Good Friday, it will stay fresh all year, and that doing so will protect your kitchen from bad spirits and kitchen fires.
There are so many different traditions associated with Easter, from flying homemade kites in Bermuda, to reading crime and mystery novels in Norway, dressing up as a witch in Finland, eating chocolate bilbies in Australia, and cooking a giant omelette in the south of France. I recall dancing around a bonfire one Easter in Germany, sharing a bottle of schnapps…
I wish you a wonderful break in whichever way you celebrate, and hope that you will take some of this time to consider that there are so many different ways to celebrate. You can apply this thinking to work situations; the way in which you approach something is likely different to that of your co-workers. Consider that what your family and culture has done for centuries may be absolutely foreign to someone else, and they may have an entirely different perspective. You don’t need to change your views, but being able to see an issue that needs solving from different angles and perspectives will enable you to be more creative in your solutions.