In contrast to Christmas, which is widely embraced by Singaporeans, who will take any excuse for a shopping spree, Easter has never really made it big in Asia.
Yes, the expat shops stock up on chocolate eggs and bunny’s, and the popularity of Easter brunch, brunch being another favourite local activity, is on the rise. But that's about it.
In the international expat community Easter traditions vary widely. Last year I tried to explain our Dutch ones to a friend.
‘Painting eggs?’ my British girlfriend asks, intrigued. ‘How do you mean?’
‘Simple,’ I tell her, ‘you boil the eggs. And then you paint them. With water based paint, or felt tip pens. Or you boil them in special Easter egg paint.’
She shakes her head. ‘And what do you do with these eggs?’
‘On Sunday morning the Easter Bunny comes, or, actually, as we call it, the Easter Hare. It just sounds better.
I let her taste the sound of the word, ‘Paashaas’.
She smiles, and I continue, ‘He will hide the eggs, in the garden, or inside if it rains.’
Now she nods, understanding, Easter eggs hunts she knows. But the eggs are made of chocolate. Not of egg.
‘And what do you do with them, after?’
‘Well, you eat them, off course.’
‘Cold, hard boiled, and hidden eggs?’
She shudders. ‘You eat them?’
‘Sure. For breakfast. Or as a snack. For tea. Before dinner, or after. Late night. Whenever you feel like one. When we come back from a long walk on Easter Sunday we will all dash for the eggs. We eat them straight, out of our hands, with a pinch of salt.’
‘All hard boiled?’
‘Hard or soft,’ I explain, ‘my mother would colour code the eggs whilst boiling, and put details on a list. Yellow for soft, blue for hard, orange half soft, red half hard. And so on.’
She is flabbergasted. ‘And so on? How many do you eat?’
I hesitate. ‘Well. When I was young we used to paint a hundred. At least, often more. After Easter Monday breakfast they’d all be gone.’
With eyes wide-open she stares at me, stunned into silence.
‘But we had visitors too,’ I add. ‘Family. We always argued as the eggs were finished way too soon. And because your little brother would eat your favourite egg, the one you made an extra effort on, first.’
My friend is, suitably impressed.
I nod. I wonder, shall I admit my family is slightly eccentric, a bit mad. Shall I admit that not all Dutch families dye and eat a hundred eggs for Easter? That a dozen is the average?
‘To be honest,’ I start.
Across the room screaming starts. We sigh. We wander over, to where her daughter and my son roll in a violent embrace. When they are pulled apart, reprimanded and kissed, we get back to our tea. And our talk.
‘What were we talking about?’ she asks.
‘Easter,’ I say.
‘Ah yes. Have you finished your Easter Bonnets yet for the pre-school parade?’
Now it is my turn to look blank. For what on earth is an Easter Bonnet?