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