Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter -- "Easter Sunday, we were walking. Easter Sunday, we were talking.
Isabel, my little one, take my hand. Time has come."
- Patti Smith.

"We have a holiday tomorrow," C. phoned from Shenzhen to tell me in Hong Kong on Wednesday.

"What holiday? Why?" Maybe the grave sweeping festival -- a "holiday" that seemingly gives license in Hong Kong for banks and government businesses to close in order for people to swamp the hillside tombs to set fire to brush and trees and incidentally picnic and honoor ancestors. But that's a traditional Chinese holiday seemingly only observed in Hong Kong anymore.

No. She had more confident news for me. "Tomorrow is Easter!"

I broke the news to her that Easter is traditionally observed on a Sunday and skipped the part that sometimes it's in March, sometimes April for reasons I can't fathom and don't have the time or patience to Google and then explain.

She informed me that her new Shenzhen-based Russian employers/overlords/illegal smugglers (more on that later) had decided to observe the Hong Kong version of Easter holiday which according to another tradition I don't grasp apparently stretches from Maundy Thursday through post-alleged-Resurrection Monday.

I briefly mentioned and then attempted to skip the part about Maundy Thursday because, again, there were serious lapses in my free-form psuedo-Christian upbringing in Boulder, Colorado. "Maundy, Maundy, just don't get that day"... "They call it Stormy Maundy, but Tuesday's just as bad..." I hummed.

"Monday-Thursday? What?"

"Never mind." I backtracked to crudely explain Ash Wednesday as a day in either March or April (depending on when the Groundhog saw his shadow in February)when some Christians put dirt/ashes on their foreheads for the day and Good Friday as the day Jesus was crucified.

"Dirt on your head all day? They don't clean it off? Why? And why is it 'Good Friday' when he was killed on Friday?"

"Uh, dirt. Yeah. Dunno, really. Sin or something. Hard to clean off unless you've got lamb's blood. Good Friday because he, again I dunno. Rose again on Sunday? So it was good he was killed on Friday. Otherwise the Passover party might've gotten outta control and he would've spent the weekend recovering and crashing at John's or Peter's place instead of taking care of business for the next 2,000-plus years."

"What? And when does the Easter rabbit come?"

Fast-forward to Easter morning in Shenzhen. I was awakened not by church bells or the trills and giggles of tots tearing open Easter baskets but by the 6.30am thump/pound/bash of the multi-story pile driver on the Eternal Construction Site of Our Grasping Real Estate Chinese Lord across the street. It was the fourth straight day of grey, smog choked 50-degree weather so thick that the sun seemed a distant memory. Our kitchen sink was leaking. And C had told me the night before that, incidentally, part of her new duties at Russia R Us included fixing connections and details so shipments of "steel," "asphalt" and "window glass" also included plentiful supplies of counterfeit Nokia and Seimens cell phone parts concealed within.

I was absorbing this all and wondering if I should break into the freezer to unwrap the pitiful remains of a motley moldering yellow Peep that an amiga in Colorado had sent me on my first Easter in China more than three years ago. I'm not big on Peeps, but it seemed like a last link to a holiday I rarely had thought about until deprived of it.

"So what do you do on Easter?" C asked. "What would you be doing now if you were there?"

I lied a little. "Oh, go to a church service. Dress up. Give Easter baskets to children. Hunt for Easter eggs. And a big dinner -- lamb or ham usually with my family."

"We have lamb," she said. Indeed her mother who is staying with us for Eternity it seems at this point was preparing a northern Chinese hotpot brunch of lamb, oysters and vegetables. Had to admit it smelled heavenly.

"And do I have an Easter surprise for you," I leered. "Suck on this!" No. Not what you're thinking. It was a chocolate Easter chick lollypop I'd picked up in Hong Kong on Friday on my way to Shenzhen.

"Couldn't find a rabbit. But bite the head off first anyway," I said. "It's better that way."
Happy Easter Justin.

We and twenty of our adopted L.A. family enjoyed the fatted lamb here (and some ham, too, as well as hummus, chianti and guacamole...a total cross-cultural-culinarial-extravorgasmic event).

I don't remember what your family enjoyed at holiday times in Amercia, but it is somehow comforting to realize that, from whatever culture we come from, homesickness is the one illness for which we hold the's only a plane-ticket away....

or a phone call. I didn't store your cell-phone number when you called, so this will have to do...

Happy Easter Justin
Probably stole it from us Danes (and most of Europe). We just had Easter too. Actually three holidays all-in-all. Thursday, Friday & Monday.

I better not tell the Chinese about my birthday. Then they probably steal that date too.
In fact, Thursday WAS "Grave-cleaning Day"--Qing Ming. Friday was Good Friday, Saturday was "The Saturday after Good Friday," and Monday was "Easter Monday." Good ol' HK--all the holidays, East and West.

See 'em here:

Easter date is easy: First Sunday after first full moon after vernal equinox. (sort of) Passover is first Friday after first full moon after vernal equinox--that's why they're sometimes different weeks (when full moon falls on, say, a Saturday).

Anyway, this HK holiday blitz screwed me up and delayed my wedding license run by nearly a week.

All is well now, though. Counting down to Sunday, April 29.

Call me this weekend, bud.

James (Barefoot Laughing Whatever)
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