Easter – a strange dog, moving dates and plenty of eggs

At home in the UK when I was a child, we had a miniature poodle. A small and highly fluffy dog which spent most of its life inside, apart from a short walk each day. It had no possibility of digging holes to bury a bone and, to be honest, I don’t think it even knew what a bone was! But it did have a very good sense of smell and this would allow it to sniff out the chocolate left around the house at Easter time and “bury” under a cushion on the lounge settee. When I came into the room in the morning the dog would normally bound up to me for a morning stroke, but not this morning…. oh no, it remained very stuck to its treasure it had under the cushion.

So why do we indulge in an abundance of chocolate and eggs at Easter, at least in the UK where I am from? Chocolate became popular in the early 19th century and confectioners soon used their skill to create shaped chocolate to target the main festival periods. Easter marked the end of the 40-day Lenten fast and so people felt it was a great excuse to indulge in some of the luxuries of life and also celebrate this important day in the Christian calendar. The chocolate industry cashed in!

But there we have another strange thing….. Easter is quite late this year, Sunday 17th April 2022… but it is not the latest date that it can be – that is the 25th April, and for your information, and forward planning, the earliest it can be is the 22nd March. So, there you have it, but how did we get to know the exact day before the eve of Google? Well, it is simple really…. Easter day is the first full moon after the spring equinox and you of course know that this is the 21st March. So, after the 21st March, keep looking at the sky at night and as the moon grows to display its full glory, then this will be Easter day. Would this always be a Sunday? I doubt it, and so we need to be a little flexible and perhaps give it a double check on Google just to be sure.

We have the day, but now what to do? An expat Irish friend of mine said that their family used to get up early on Easter morning and head up a local hill to see the sunrise and hold a little service with other church members. This is not too much of a struggle time wise because the sun rises in Dublin on Easter Day 2022 at 6.21am (thank you Google) and for ourselves in Kampala, we would need to be on the hilltop by 6.46am. Uganda is always such a nice and kind country to live in, and this time offers us an extra 20 minutes to enjoy our slumber. Plus, the chance of it being warm and clear in Kampala is much greater than in Ireland, where according to the Irish Meteorological Society there is complete cloud cover for about half the year! So, there is a fair chance you might walk up the hill, get wet and only know the sun has risen through the time on your watch.

But that is OK, because in many countries, including Ireland and Uganda, another important aspect of the Easter celebrations is having a great family feast at some point during the day. When I was working in Arua 20 years ago, Easter was the other day – Christmas being the other – when people would treat themselves to meat and rice. In Greece the traditional Easter meal is mageiritsa, which is a thick stew of chopped lamb liver and wild greens seasoned with egg-and-lemon sauce. Sounds nice! In Russia you might enjoy some Paskha, which seems to be a pie type of thing into which you put all the things you were not allowed to eat during the Eastern Orthodox Lenten fast. Sounds sensible, although how it might taste I have no idea – a good excuse to go and find a Russian in Uganda this Easter and strike up a conversation about Paskha.

Now, I couldn’t write an Easter article without mentioning eggs at some point. For the rest of the year my mum would keep telling me that “sweets were bad for my teeth”, but then at Easter a huge chocolate egg would be awaiting us – assuming that the dog had not got there first! And, as a young kid, if the chocolate egg was not tempting enough in itself, then there was also the extra treat of what might be inside the egg…. Smarties, mini-Mars bars, Maltesers to name but a few of the possibilities. My favorite was actually not the larger chocolate eggs, but the mini eggs which had a sugar coating around a hard chocolate filling and looked like real birds’ eggs. My mouth has started watering just thinking about them – has yours? If Mini eggs were my favorite then the Cream eggs were the thing I avoided. Cream eggs are about the size of a real hen’s egg and have a chocolate shell and inside the sweetest substance every created – far too sweet for even my young taste buds.

A mention of hen’s eggs reminds me of another global Easter tradition, and that is the decorating of hen’s eggs. For most normal people they simply boil the egg hard and then decorate it to make a wonderful creation. In my home we used to have to blow the inside of the egg out and then decorate it. My mind still boggles how the yolk and white of an egg can be blown out through a small hole, but then of course you are decorating a delicate egg shell rather a nice weighty hard-boiled egg. Why did we do this? I have no idea, but perhaps you have suggestions?

Of course, the symbol of the egg at Easter emphasizes the Christian belief of Jesus Christ rising again from the dead and through this offering new life to those who believe. But whether you are a Christian or not, Uganda is a country of friendly diversity, amongst the nationals and the expats. So why not take advantage of this and enjoy something different this Easter. See how this diversity works in practice and pay an Easter Sunday visit to one of the great Cathedrals in Kampala, such as Namirembe or Rubaga.

The good news for me is that I know my Easter chocolates are safe here in Uganda, because our dogs are outside and only people are inside the house – Happy Easter!

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