Sunday, April 24, 2011

You Want to Do WHAT with the Eggs?

Holiday celebrations in cross-cultural families are always a tad challenging. Due to time constraints alone, it's not feasible to celebrate all of the holidays in both Japan and the US. So, over the years, we have come up with a repertoire of the holidays we do celebrate (though the approach to them is often different depending on which country we are in and how much effort it will take to pull off some semblance of the holiday at hand).

There are a handful of holidays that really don't translate from one culture to the next. Easter has been one of those holidays that we only celebrate in the US. The only holiday more difficult to execute in Japan is Thanksgiving. First of all,it happens on a Thursday, in the middle of the work week. Next,the story of the Pilgrims and Indians and the first Thanksgiving seems especially quaint in a country with a prehistory that reaches back 10000 years and a civilized society that is way older than the United States.' Most importantly, however, is the fact it is nearly impossible to buy a turkey and cranberry sauce. Plus, there is no American football on TV.

But back to Easter...

When we are in Japan, we go to church and mark the occasion, but there are no Easter dresses or egg casseroles. It is next to impossible to procure Easter baskets and Easter candy in Japan. I don't think I have ever seen jelly beans for sale there (except for the occasional Jelly Belly at an import gourmet market). And so it is that this year, nearly 6 1/2 years after our first child was born, we found ourselves decorating Easter eggs for the first time. I'm sure some of you skeptics assume we haven't dyed eggs up until now because we hate stains on the carpet. You're right. We do hate stains on the carpet, but actually, since this was the first Easter we spent in the US when our kids could actually comprehend this thing called Easter, we decided to take the plunge and dye some eggs.

When I say that "we" decided to dye eggs, what I mean is that I decided to do it and Ren decided to look at me incredulously for a very long time. I explained the process, and Ren's response was: "You want to do what to the eggs?" So I explained it again. First we boil the eggs, then we dye them different colors. After that, we hide them around the house (leaving them unrefrigerated all night). Then the kids find them and we put them back in the refrigerator until we eat them. My re-explanation had little impact on the puzzled look on his face. But I decided to forge ahead anyway.

The kids loved experimenting with colors and making a mess, and Ren managed to create a color with his egg that I'd never seen before. Sky and Pink P loved hunting for the eggs after the Easter Bunny hid them (why is it that hunting for real eggs is even more thrilling than hunting for candy-filled plastic ones?) And, as could have been predicted, they were not terribly impressed when it came time to eat their eggs. In the end, our colorful creations were left behind at Grandma's so she could use them to make psychedelic deviled eggs for the church pitch-in.

It's a weird thing not to have built-in connections with one's spouse when it comes to holiday traditions. I imagine some would say we are lucky to avoid the conflicts that arise when two people with strong family traditions have to work to create a new tradition of their own. And it's true that we are lucky to avoid the annual question of with whom we will spend our holidays. But the fact is almost every holiday one of us is responsible for remembering how we did things when we were young and for recreating a similar experience for our own kids while the other looks on incredulously. It's a lot like trying to recall idioms or remembering to teach them all the appropriate nursery rhymes and fairy tales. (Check out that post here.) Some of it gets lost in translation.

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