Many countries have Easter traditions that differ from Australia. In Germany, for example, it is common for people to hang colourful plastic eggs from their garden trees. In Finland, children go begging for chocolate, door to door, with feathers in their hair and bunches of twigs in their arms. In Florence, Italy, a cart is wheeled into the centre of town and exploded.
These are all traditions followed in broad daylight – outward expressions of festive joy in nations where Easter is the norm. But what happens in countries where Easter is frowned upon and those who celebrate it are treated with barely concealed contempt? What traditions have those fellow believers cultivated?
‘It is good to have Easter in a place where Christianity is not the social norm’, says the LCA’s Asian Ministry Coordinator Pastor Brian Shek. Asian Ministry is part of the Cross-Cultural Ministry department of Local Mission.
‘The first Easter happened in a society hostile to Christ and his followers’, he says. ‘I have the privilege of understanding better how the joy of the disciples is mixed with fear and stress.’
Originally from Hong Kong, Pastor Shek says the city of his birth shares many Western secular Easter traditions, but it is also difficult to observe some important religious moments Australian Christians take for granted there. ‘It may be difficult to have vigil services in Hong Kong’, he says, ‘Services in a densely populated city, especially where there is singing, when it is still dark, is certainly causing problems to many other unchurched people.’
While Hong Kong Christians share chocolate eggs at Easter, there is another form of egg-giving that is equally important. ‘It is common to have hard-boiled eggs dyed in red together with chocolate eggs’, Pastor Shek says. ‘The hard-boiled eggs in red are also given as a gift to relatives and friends when they have a newborn baby in the family.’
Pastor Shek says his most unusual Hong Kong Easter celebration was an Easter service held in a graveyard. ‘Easter is always close to the Chinese Ancestor Remembrance Day’, he says, ‘We are looking forward to rejoining our ancestors at the time of resurrection when Jesus comes again.’
A graveyard memorial service is something Pastor Shek would like to see happen in some Australian Lutheran churches as a form of cross-cultural ministry.
‘Australia has always been a country of many different cultures and it is becoming more so’, he says. ‘Cross-cultural ministry acknowledges the need of the gospel for all people regardless of their cultural orientation. Communicating the good news to people is essentially a cultural activity in which the receivers are inevitably thinking and understanding the message in their culture.
‘I am excited to be involved in this challenging ministry. The church is not able to fulfil the great commandment without incorporating cross-cultural ministry as an essential ministry of the church.’