My acquaintance with Easter, surprisingly, goes a long way back to my childhood. It is surprising, given how I am a citizen of a “Muslim” country, whose history with its non-Muslim communities is indelibly violent; where we almost live by a bifurcated calendar and in different realities. From my childhood, I remember painting eggs or making some basic ornaments in art class, but the memories are hazy. I believe one reason for this was that Easter only meant extra holidays for me, since my “foreign” teachers would head back home to celebrate Easter with their families. But I also remember I couldn’t understand the meaning of Easter. I was told, or so I remember, that Easter was Jesus’ birthday. But how was this possible? I already knew Jesus had the same birthday as my Mom, on December 25. Then I, as a 7-year-old, was querying how on Earth could a prophet, like Mohammed, could have been born twice. I decided I didn’t believe any of it, just as I didn’t believe that preamble of a spider who spun a net at the entrance of the cave where Mohammed was hiding to protect the mighty prophet.
The preparations and the story that spun around Easter seemed “childish” to me as I was growing up, or maybe it was because I was no longer obligated to paint eggs in art classes. I had changed school, the teachers who went on these alien holidays seemed to disappear from my life. So much so that it didn’t leave a mark on me – I honestly don’t have the faintest idea on how it all disappeared.
Years passed by and in 2015, I came to Germany, meeting all sorts of cultures to which I was the outsider. But oddly enough, 2020 was the first year that I truly experienced a “proper” Easter.
Years passed by and in 2015, I came to Germany, meeting all sorts of cultures to which I was the outsider. But oddly enough, 2020 was the first year that I truly experienced a “proper” Easter. Germans usually go back their hometown for Easter, whereas “we” either stay in the city as part of the minority, or use this holiday to visit our families back home – if we ever have the means. But this year, things were anything but ordinary. Coronavirus has locked everyone up into their homes, including my German flatmates. So the week before Easter, we realized that we had to get some groceries for the long Easter weekend since the markets would be closed. For some reason, I suddenly became eager to kick up a party and asked my flatmates whether we could also spend this Easter the way they would have spent it with their families.
My rational brain somehow bypassed all the doubts it once held around the bizarre stories woven of spiders and rebirths. It turned out that Easter, which to my knowledge was limited to painting eggs and 2D bunny profiles, is celebrated differently in each family. But one thing that stood out in common is that on Easter Sunday, after a long and big family breakfast, each family tucks away egg-shaped chocolates in the house and afterwards begin to search every nook and cranny – a sort of scavenger hunt. In comparison to our Islamicate holiday traditions, whereby the maximum movement that a child needs to perform is to bend over the hand of the family elders to kiss and draw it onto one’s own forehead, the hunt requires quite an effort.
So, we still made a dash to the market and came home with breakfast items and a bag full of diabetes-inducing chocolate Easter eggs. On Sunday, out on our balcony, accompanied by the church bells chiming for 15 minutes, we had our breakfast with slightly funny gratitude talks on Easter. Then we went in, one by one, and hid eggs all over the house. After the placement was over, we started hunting down the small treats. I went to every corner of the house, climbed up to the top shelves, lay on the ground, rummaged through the drawers. While searching for eggs, I got more familiar with my own home, the space that I inhabit, and also transgressed into the rooms and lives of others. My housemates became my new playmates – together we laughed, ran, jumped, and burned off what we ate.
On the other hand, on my own end, it was peaceful to feel the warmth of a home, away from the place and people which I had hitherto called home. Moreover, feeling like a 7-year-old – that was the selling point. For one, I felt like a child, having a different perception of time, but for another, I stood still like an old person reminiscing the past.
Everything else aside, when I look back from the second day of Easter to the first, I actually realized how much I missed the holidays spent with my family. Although I don’t have a family who celebrates Muslim holidays in a traditional sense, I never enjoyed these traditions for their own sake. To speak in a broader sense, for us children, the meaning of these holidays doesn’t go beyond wondering “how much pocket money will they give me this time?”; the boring, yet mandatory sittings with some third-degree relative that you don’t know, who smells like onion and pinches you of out of affection; or feeling guilty for eating all the delicious food; the guilt stemming from having eaten the parts of a sacrificed animal – I hope that the readers of this piece have not been through the trauma of seeing the animals slaughtered for the Eid Qurban in their childhood, which is, unfortunately, quite a common ritual, especially for the little boys of a family –, but despite everything, the family would still be together somehow, each time.
On the one hand, it was a poignant moment, to witness my flatmates’ melancholy smile about not being together with their families, yet somehow enjoying this new tradition with “another” family. On the other hand, on my own end, it was peaceful to feel the warmth of a home, away from the place and people which I had hitherto called home. Moreover, feeling like a 7-year-old – that was the selling point. For one, I felt like a child, having a different perception of time, but for another, I stood still like an old person reminiscing the past.
In such days in which we are trapped in our homes, and in which home doesn’t imply tranquility as much as, perhaps, a sense of qualm – the Easter of my home was, in a way, exhilarating. I was stuck in Berlin, yes, but I felt a bit more “at home” in my house, and the Eids of my own culture weren’t so scary or confusing anymore. It is surely a naïve way of thinking that begs much reflection – keeping that in mind, I still don’t want to ruin this feeling. Long story short, I cannot say that I was resurrected by this Easter fever, but it certainly breathed life back into me with laughter and exuberant, bittersweet joy.