Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter in Aotearoa?



Having a mixed marriage (English/Kiwi) has not involved too much cultural conflict. Vicky and I have found that our backgrounds have been surprisingly similar, despite our formative years being spent as far apart as you could possibly be, and in different hemispheres. Most of our family traditions and our childhood experiences are very similar and even when we compare our holidays, our family celebrations or festivities, or the books we read, it is as if we came from the same culture or country. 

The difference really becomes pronounced when the seasons are matched with the traditional celebrations and Vicky would be the first to say that this is where things go badly wrong. Christmas just doesn't work in Summer and when it is combined with the end of the school year and Summer holidays it is almost like all the good things happen at once and the pressure to get through them takes away much of the pleasure. Easter in the Northern Hemisphere developed out of the pagan Spring festivals and the chicken and egg symbolism just doesn't fit with our falling leaves and darkening days. 

Much of my youth was spent searching for some sort of spiritual truth, even to the extent of taking Phenomenology of Religion at university, but although I no longer consider myself Christian I still have an attachment to the traditions of my childhood. As a family we have accepted the commercially driven elements of Christian festivals and have included elements of our own, it seemed unfair to deny our children the things we enjoyed when were young even if the initial meanings have been largely lost. I do think it is important that my children do know the Christian stories behind our festivals because, like any myths or traditions that come with any culture, they have contributed to making us the people we are. The fact that many people do still hold strong to their Christian beliefs I feel it is important for my children to have an understanding of them and to decide for themselves where they fit in their lives. 

For all our adherence to our european heritage in this country, perhaps it is about time we re-evaluated who we are and what we want to collectively recognize as a country. More and more we are becoming a multi-cultural nation, we have the largest polynesian population in the world and our asian population is steadily reaching significant levels. All of our cultural minorities have their own beliefs and traditions and while I think it is vital that they continue to recognize them (as it is both important for them and adds vitality to our country in positive ways) but what should we celebrate together? We need some festivals and celebrations that bring our whole country together, ones that celebrate both our uniqueness and feelings of unity. 

We are quick to accept traditions from beyond our shores, like Guy Fawkes and Halloween, but reluctant to have the confidence to support our own. Anzac Day is shared with Australia but has become something of our own and Waitangi Day is ours but has had a chequered  history with differing views on what it really represents. We tried New Zealand Day for a bit but it never quite gelled and we have had some recent support for Matariki as something that would brighten a Winter devoid of much to look forward to. I think it is time to have some healthy conversations and feel comfortable about our shared heritage. Why can't have celebrations that are uniquely our own, that bring us together as people of Aotearoa, who share the same wonderful place that isn't England or the US and be proud of who we are?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Couldnt agree more with that, very attractive article