Yuji: Do you have cherry blossom parties in America?
Dane: No, we welcome spring with Easter, the day Christians believe Jesus came back to life.
Yuji: Back to life? How did he die?
Dane: The Romans killed him after a Jewish court said he was guilty of pretending to be the son of God.
Yuji: But I thought Jesus was a God.
Dane: No he isn’t a God. The Christians believe he is the Son of God, but the Jews don’t think so.
Yuji: So the Jews and Christians were enemies.
Dane: Well, not then. In fact, Jesus was a Jew. But he taught some new ideas and he wanted to reform the religion. The old priests didn’t like that.
Yuji: Like Prime Minister Koizumi trying to reform the government?
Dane: Something like that. But they didn’t crucify Koizumi.
Dane: Nail him to a cross.
Yuji: That’s terrible. They killed Jesus with the Christian symbol!
Dane: No, Christianity didn’t become a religion until after he died, came back to life for 40 days and went to heaven. They use the cross as a symbol because that’s how he died.
Yuji: I’m confused. When did Jesus die?
Dane: On the Friday after the first full moon of spring. Easter is the following Sunday. The date changes every year. It’s based on the old lunar calendar. This year it’s on April 12th.
Yuji: I see, like the old Japanese calendar. But why do they call it Easter?
Dane: Good question. Easter or Eostre was the name of the old Nordic Goddess of Sunlight and Fertitlity.
Yuji: Sun Goddess? Just like our Amaterasu. But what’s fertility?
Dane: The ability to make babies. So isn’t it odd that the English kept the name of the old goddess for their holiest Christian day.
Yuji: Well, sunlight and sex are good themes for a spring festival. It sounds very romantic.
Dane: No, Easter is not romantic – Valentines’ Day is. Easter is more serious, but it’s a fun day too.
Yuji: What kind of fun?
Dane: The Easter Bunny comes.
Yuji: What’s the Easter Bunny?
Dane: A rabbit who brings goodies to kids; decorated eggs and chocolate eggs, chickens and bunnies.
Yuji: Why eggs, chickens and rabbits?
Dane: They are all symbols of rebirth. In fact, the Goddess Eostre had a pet rabbit for the same reason. Anyway, families color and decorate hard boiled eggs on Saturday. When the Easter Bunny comes, he hides them and adds the chocolate candies for the kids to find on Easter morning.
Yuji: For breakfast?
Dane: No. The kids have fun hunting for them outside, if the weather is good. Churches and other places have community Easter Egg hunts too. Even the President has one at the White House for kids who are lucky enough to get an invitation.
Yuji: That sounds great for little kids, but what do adults do for Easter fun?
Dane: We have picnics, if the weather is good. And then there’s the Easter Parade?
Yuji: Like the Thanksgiving parade?
Dane: Not exactly. It became famous in New York over a hundred years ago. People get dressed up in their fanciest new spring clothes and walk along 5th Avenue.
Yuji: That’s all? You can see that in Harajuku every Sunday.
Dane: Well, it’s little more than that. The highlight back then was the women’s gorgeous hats. Today people wear crazy home-made hats to show off in the parade.
Yuji: OK. But Japanese don’t care much for hats. Food is our big thing. So, after the parade do you have a special Easter dinner?
Dane: Yes, but there’s no real traditional menu like with Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Yuji: Well, Easter sounds like fun, but I’m not a Christian, I don’t like eggs and I’m not crazy about chocolate. So, I think I prefer our Hanami parties; beautiful blossoms, delicious food and strong sake.
Dane: Yeah, I can fully appreciate that.
. Text © Dane Degenhardt, Monde Dane, 2009