Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Easter a time for families to gather, share faith

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WITH the election of the new Argentinean Pope, Francis the first, media attention around the world has gravitated to his first pronouncements.

It seems to make no difference what religion people follow; with a flock that numbers over a billion followers, it is natural the direction he plans to take the church will have some social implications for all of us to some degree.

It is perhaps no wonder, therefore, that his words on these most holy days of Christendom will be paid attention to with greater interest than in normal years. Catholic or not, Christians of all kinds are likely to note this year's Easter day with an even greater sense of awareness.

Yet as religious as are Easter celebrations, so many of the festivities that take place incorporate traditions and activities that seem to have no real connection to the teachings of the gospels themselves.

Around the world, the celebration of nations can sometimes take entirely different and unique directions.

This year, as in most, Easter week coincides with the Hebrew holiday of Passover that celebrates the exodus of Jews from Egypt over 3,000 years ago. The last supper of Christ, some scholars have said, was similar to the Passover Seder feast.

Easter egg hunts are popular in many countries around the world, yet it is believed the celebration of the egg comes from a pagan belief in Egypt, that the egg was the symbol of fertility.

Easter morning egg hunts take place in Germany, Brazil, Switzerland and the Philippines, just to name a few countries.

What has really become related to the egg hunt in many countries is the introduction of chocolate.

These sweet treats constitute a secular celebration of Easter in as many countries as are egg-centred activities.

In North America, shopping malls are loaded with chocolate options from eggs to rabbits to cute characters of many creations. But the biggest chocolate craze during this time of year can be found in most European countries, Brazil, India and even in the Muslim-based country of Malaysia, where it seems quite kosher to celebrate the season with these extra doses of sweetness.

While the cute Easter bunny seems to hop around the globe each Easter morning, Australia has made a concerted effort to change the character from the rabbit to the local Australian animal, known as the bilby. It is also very cute and has long, soft ears, much like the rabbit whose tradition they are trying to replace.

The rabbit, it seems, has been causing significant damage to the Australian environment and is seen as a pest that should be eliminated rather than celebrated.

Around the world, the Easter bonnet has a strong foundation as an integral part of non-religious celebrations and buying a new hat for Easter's resurrection service is still popular in many places.

Easter parades can be seen on the streets of several countries each year.

In Germany, Sommertagszug, or summer day parade takes place three weeks before Easter. An Easter market, or Ostermarket, is an integral byproduct of the parade where families buy Easter-related crafts and foods.

In the United Kingdom and Australia the Easter bonnet parade is a tradition shared by both nations as children and adults march up and down the streets showing off their finest Easter fashions.

In Colombia, candle-lit processions are common, with bands playing loudly as the Nazarenos are draped in purple-hooded robes decorated with white crosses.

Drum parades are common in Spain, while Antigua offers a full week of processions marching through communities with people carrying huge holy statues to a shrine built to honour the Easter miracle every year.

Music seems to be a part of celebratory parades throughout Italy, with bands composed of various instruments leading the faithful around the community.

At its heart, Easter is still a time when families gather to celebrate their faith and share the warmth and love of their teachings with each other.

Easter morning services fill the pews of most Christian churches around the world, and this month's election of the new pope could see capacities overflowing in the most religious of countries. No doubt South American faithful, already with the highest percentage of practising Catholics in the world, will be even more devout in their activities.

Easter brunches have become one of the staples of families wanting to get out and share time with their families, making it one of the bigger restaurant days of the year. But family dinners are equally popular with a wide variety of foods forming the cornerstone of the meal depending on which country in which you reside.

As a part of most meals, the egg will find a place on the menu in some manner, either as a simple hard-boiled presentation or integrated into other presentations that give it its full due as an Easter adjunct.

While ham or turkey are often the lead item on dinner tables, many who have not consumed red meat of any kind during the Lenten period, depending upon their nationality, will look forward to a beef or lamb centred meal.

To Christians and non-Christians alike, I hope the spirit of the celebrations will touch all of us who look for peace and harmony and some form of resurrection in our own daily lives.

Forward your travel questions to askjourneys@journeystravel.com. Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre and can be heard Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found at www.journeystravelgear.com or read Ron's travel blog at www.thattravelguy.ca.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 30, 2013 D2

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