Easter in New Zealand.

Where did we leave off? With a broken marriage, needing to shift to a cheaper house, overwhelming disappointment in Six’s school, and a job search? Well, in the next month, I promise I will tell you more about these things.

Today is Monday, and the school holidays have ended. I am sad. Returning to the forced conviviality of school drop-offs and pick-ups is hitting me like a sledge hammer. Let’s escape for a moment to a happier time.

Easter weekend was a sylvan interlude, a break in the tedium of our everyday life. As holidays should be, right? Like many Kiwis, our family has a tradition of camping over the Easter weekend. But I should backtrack and tell you Easter in New Zealand (and Australia) is very peculiar. In New Zealand, it’s a four-day weekend. I love it.

Celebrating fertility rites in autumn is crazy nonsense. In New Zealand, we exchange big chocolate eggs. Six can’t eat the Easter chocolate eggs sold in the shops. (Because he is allergic to milk.) So, Easter is a reprisal of Christmas. But instead of stupid chocolate Santas, there's an egg hunt at school for chocolate eggs that Six can’t eat. Never mind. Six prefers lollies, and here's a spoiler—over Easter weekend, there were plenty of lollies. Too many lollies. OMFG.

The archaic trading rules in New Zealand make Easter weekend very odd. What I mean is, on Easter Friday and Easter Sunday ALL OF THE SHOPS ARE CLOSED.

There are a few exceptions. Servos (Kiwi for petrol stations) are open. And so are some random cafes that pay increased wages and give a “day in lieu” to their workers. These rebel cafes also pay a fine for opening their doors. (The fine is called something else. Sorry, I am too lazy to look it up right now.)

The rules are confusing and hilarious. Garden centres are required to be shut on Easter Friday, but they may open on Easter Sunday. Pubs are closed, but apparently brothels can open. (I’m not sure if brothels can sell you a handle of lager.) You are allowed to buy wine at a vineyard. Shops open on Easter Saturday.

On Easter Monday (also a public holiday), the malls weren’t allowed to open until 1pm. And people queued up at the mall doors before they opened, eager to spend their money in the Easter sales.

With this obvious demand for consumerism, every year there is lots of talk about abolishing the Easter trading rules. But it never happens. This probably has a lot to do with Jesus Christ. And this is O.K. with me, even though I am not religious. (To Six, the Easter story is a fable.)

I’d rather Easter weekend was a secular event, like Eat Chocolate Eggs Weekend. But whatever you choose to call it, I like that the shops are shut, and we can’t BUY BUY BUY. On Easter Friday and Easter Sunday, there aren’t even any advertisements on TV or radio. It's exactly like Buy Nothing Day, but better. It's so refreshing.

Don’t get me wrong. Year-round, consumerism in New Zealand is low key. What passes for consumerism here resembles America in 1978. Not long ago, shops in New Zealand were closed on Sundays. I believe that selling wine in supermarkets is a recent change.

(Yes, I know some cities in America are "dry" and don't sell booze on Sundays and whatnot. But America is also that weird country that enacted Prohibition.)

Some Americans wouldn’t like living in New Zealand. There is only one high-end department store. Sure, we have our shops. And some of them are very good. But there aren’t a lot of consumer choices. And despite the high Kiwi dollar, goods are expensive. Please don’t get me started on the price of books.

The truth is, I am a lousy consumer. I plan my shopping outings with almost military precision, in an attempt to make them as quick and painless as possible. Even so, it’s irritating to be forced by the Easter weekend to plan ahead, and buy enough bread and milk (not to mention beer and wine) to last until the shops open again.

But it's not so annoying that I’m demanding we abolish these out-dated trading laws.

Anyway, since the shops are closed, Easter is an ideal time for camping. It’s usually a last gasp of good weather before winter really sets in. Easter weather is warm enough to allow you to sleep comfortably in a tent.

Of course, if you have a caravan, you are not held back by changing seasons or rain. Next time: Yes, there was rain on Easter weekend. No, we don't have a caravan.

Our camping neighbours, The Bogans


Caffeinated Weka said...

The Easter trading rules can seem quite confusing. Personally, I love the fact that the shops are closed on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It is probably the only real break in the year where a holiday is just that. FYI, shops are allowed to open all day on Easter Monday, but they were closed until 1 pm because this year the date coincided with Anzac Day.

Juli said...

Oh, right! Easter Monday was Anzac Day! Because it couldn't be on Good Friday...

CrackerLilo said...

It rankles me when I realize I have to live by others' religious beliefs; this made me grateful that, in NYC, I mostly don't have to. I guess that would make me a lousy New Zealander.

It's good to know how holidays are celebrated around the world (I always wondered about that as a kid, because I wanted to move to Australia.) And it's really good that you were able to take a bit of a break and reflect.

Jenny @ Practically Perfect... said...

I have a like/strong dislike relationship with shopping in New Zealand (as you can tell by reading my blog!). I really like that some things move at a slower pace here and that families get long weekends away from work, but it also makes things tricky if you run out of something during one of these weekends, and the limited choices can be aggravating. But overall, I'm beginning to appreciate it :-)