Celebrating Life At Easter

I was thinking of enrolling my two youngest children on a Drama course in the Easter holidays until I checked the dates on the calendar – the course took place on Easter Saturday and Easter Sunday. There must be some mistake. I checked again. No, definitely those days. Would people really send their kids on a course on those days? Don’t they have better things to do as a family on Easter Sunday? Has it really become just like any other day?
It reminded me of last football season when I wrongly assumed there would be no game for my son’s team on Easter Sunday morning. I was made to feel a fool, but was I really the fool? Do we really believe that just buying all that is on offer will make for a proper celebration?

Easter, like all our annual festivals, has become a great marketing opportunity – Easter bonnets, bunnies, gifts and of course, chocolate eggs. Not that any of this is in itself  wrong, but it focuses our attention on what we buy and away from the actual significance of the event.

Whether as individuals we share in the Christian celebration of the Easter weekend or not, we can all participate in celebrating new life – the birth of lambs on a nearby farm, the first shoots and buds in the garden, the increasing sunshine and lighter evenings…..

Turning the page of my Traidcraft calendar to see what the rest of the week hold shows me that I can’t put off thinking about Easter any longer. In an attempt to not get sucked into the materialism that saw Easter Eggs in the shops from February, I risk throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The picture of Malawian children with handfuls of mini eggs smiling out at me challenges me about my ‘celebration of life’ notion. Sales of fair trade sugar that goes into making these eggs has brought new life to this family – their father can say with confidence “Now, I can feed my family.”
But just last week, I heard from my friend Stuart Palmer who lives and works in Malawi that the country has run out of foreign exchange. The global recession is sucking the life out of that economy. More than ever, growers in the poorest nations need the hope of the better life that fair trade can offer them. More than ever, our consumer choices matter to lives all over the world.

I recall the disturbing campaign run by Stop the Traffik! last year to highlight the plight of trafficked children growing cocoa beans in the Cote d’Ivoire. Young children are trafficked into forced labour so we can eat chocolate. The only way to guarantee this is not the case is by eating Fairtrade chocolate this Easter. So this morning, I’ve printed off the Stop the Traffik! poster with the thought-provoking slogan “Children love Easter eggs. Except the ones who are forced to make them” and pinned it to our notice board in our kitchen.

I’ve realised how easy it is to forget even a moving message like this one (or in some cases, turn a blind eye?) when we are constantly bombarded by conflicting messages from the world around us – just consider how many times you see the same advert during one TV programme. This constant bombardment must work, even if we deny it, otherwise the advertising industry would be out of business.

So constant reminders of the truth about trade can work to keep us on track.

For me, the Easter Story is all about anticipation, surprise and joy (I’ve written a Primary assembly on this entitled Come and See available to download for free on www.assemblies.org.uk if you’re interested) and  this Easter, I intend to mirror that by having an Easter Egg Hunt with all shapes and sizes of fair trade Easter Eggs (fortunately, the choice gets wider year by year and next year, we have Cadbury’s fair trade Easter Eggs to look forward to!)

Celebration of life should be wider than a celebration of Spring. Celebration of the new life that fair trade can bring in the most desperate situations around the world can add a new dimension to our festivities this Easter. And of course, it tastes divine!

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