We got eggs yesterday, Good Friday. Eggs come from the farm and we get them 30 at a time. I looked at the fresh crate and realized that Easter would come in 2 days and I had yet to see or hear reference to the Easter Bunny. That makes sense really. The American tradition of an Easter Bunny (a rabbit which ostensibly hops through one’s yard Saturday night and hides brightly colored eggs for children to find on Easter Sunday morning) gives Americans a secular way to entertain a religious holiday. We can give and receive chocolate bunnies, dye, hide and hunt for eggs, and have an icon to use for the season in elementary schools. In a nation built on separation of church and state, mass marketing a risen Christ figurine might not sell as quickly as a chocolate bunny. Alternatively, as Americans, we have lost our agricultural heritage and need a magical way to explain what might organically only happen if all the chickens actually flew the coop — eggs all over the yard needing to be gathered up with subsequent congratulations to the children for doing the family chore.
I have not looked up the origin of our the American bunny tradition. But I smile at how pervasive it is. (Several years ago I attempted a breakfast conversation with an 8 year old friend during which I tried to explain the religious significance of Easter. After a pause, he thoughtfully looked up and asked me, “so, where does the bunny come in?” I had no answer.)
I will miss celebrating Sunday with that young friend and his family in Texas this year. They taught me about Mexican Cascarones, confetti filled eggs that we make in advance and then break on the heads of friends and family (…apparently that’s for good luck!). But no doubt Ghanaian Easter will come with its own flavor.
Ghana is a religious country. 85% of the population is Christian, about 15% Muslim. The percentage shifts between the greater Accra area where about 95% of the population is probably Christian, and the North where a much higher percentage of the population is Muslim. The nation observes both traditions’ holy days. Therefore, we are currently observing a Good Friday through Easter Monday sequence of holidays. (A Ghanian friend joked, “we love holidays in Ghana…even if Easter Monday wasn’t a holiday, we’d make up something different.”) Even though Ashesi is a secular university, the institution closes for these national holidays.
The Presbyterian Church of Ghana at Comet has welcomed me into their congregation this year. It’s in the Comet township where I’ve been living, 5 kilometers south of Berekuso, the even smaller township (a village at the end of the bus route) past which Ashesi built its university compound. My church meets under a tent in the dirt field in front of the township police station. There is often a djembe drummer, always a praise worship singer or four with tambourines, and a very committed – if not very small—assembly of congregants. I like the celebration these people put into an average Sunday (and I sing along improvisationally even though I don’t speak or understand Twi). No doubt, tomorrow will be a veritable festival!
Church lasts for several hours. People step out as they need to — some for a walk, others for a phone call. We can hear the children practicing songs and recitatively reading bible stories under the shed-cover at the edge of the dirt lot. I’ll post photographs here from Palm Sunday service last week during which we walked through the surrounding neighborhoods singing and waving palm fronds.
At the university, a student organized Christian group meets in the “multi-purpose room” singing and worshiping together Sunday late mornings to early afternoons. Their gatherings so fill the space that students spill out onto the grounds outside the room (my office is directly above them so I see and hear all of this on days that I’m hedonistic enough to be at school on a Sunday…I should probably stay home out of respect if nothing else on those Sundays that I’m not at my own church).
And so in this beautiful country that doesn’t have bunnies, Easter will be celebrated with singing and dancing and prayer and feasts.
I wonder what the nation’s Muslims do.