It’s not just about language! You know how I get on my soap box when it comes to multicultural families. People so often continually ask questions about your kid’s ability to juggle with two (or more) languages; how they talk to you, converse with their school mates or their grandparents or even their siblings – important questions, I agree. But what interests me above all is what do I bring from my childhood, from my home-culture and want my own children to experience, to do and to celebrate? There is definitely not just the language but indeed, cultural heritage as well!
Easter provided us with fantastic lesson on that front. As a Franco-German family living in Britain our holidays took us this year –not as usual back to our families- but to a different country. We took the train to leave the island under the channel, past through many different landscapes in France, to finally exit the train at our final destination: Barcelona. How exciting: a new city to explore, a new language to try, a new gastronomy to savour and last, but not least, alternative weather conditions to experience.
A few weeks prior our trip we talked about how we could possibly celebrate Easter, “far away from home”? I brought from my own Christian childhood memories of the recipe for a lamb-cake and my husband could not imagine having Easter without colouring eggs (which by the way is a hassle in Britain, as most of the eggs are brown!) and both of us love the quantities of chocolate collected during an Easter Egg hunt in the garden. Great, but how can we transfer this to a 30m2 flat in central Barcelona with no oven and no garden? Our parental decision was rapid, as we wanted our children to know what goes on at Easter in both of our home-cultures so we allowed some space for that in our luggage. A well wrapped home baked Easter lamb travelled more than 1000 km through Europe in my husband’s back pack (it only lost one chocolate eye on the way!), the egg colours went in my handbag and I hid some chocolate rabbits in my suitcase. Fortunately we only required vinegar for the egg colouring and found some white eggs at the market. The result was beautiful and touched me deeply (more than I could imagine). It was so lovely to import these Easter traditions to another place and to create an Easter Egg Hunt in the living room with three green and three pink eggs.
The “cherry on the top of the cake”, as the German say preferring it to the English icing, was our Easter celebration with the German Church in Barcelona. I looked it up before our departure as we all enjoy going to church. The invitation from the German community looked promising – they offered an Easter egg hunt for children which is, by the way, less well known in Spain. It surprised me how quickly I felt at home there. Such a lovely sense of being with many other German families, some of them also on holiday. We sang beautiful songs, even including some part-singing, this musical ability within German culture is something I really appreciate. It was so good to see friendly faces and at the end of the service to be welcomed to beautifully presented refreshments. I sat there, and realised for the first time why it is so important to meet with other people from your home-country. I should by the way mention that I grew up within my French family living in Germany! Germany is the country of my childhood.
It’s not only that I needed to hear German or even that I needed to be with Germans – I was perfectly happy listening to Spanish people and eating exotic Spanish dishes… it’s hard to put into words. The feeling of familiarity was relaxing and felt very comfortable even though I didn’t know anybody and I hadn’t been to that place before. There was something akin to an unspoken understanding between all these people who came from different parts of Germany. We were all together distant from our country of origin yet celebrating a tradition rooted in our childhoods. When my children returned from their egg hunt, they proudly showed me their big chocolate Easter bunnies. This image rang a bell as it looked so like the one my parents bought for me many years ago when I grew up in Germany.
Talking about bells… it was so beautiful to see the German parishioners in Barcelona ringing the bells like monks. The children are still talking about this as they don’t usually see someone actually ringing the bell. This reminds me of something else. The German Easter tradition has sent out many bunnies who have jumped over geographic boundaries and you now have them in Britain and in France. In spite of this my French cultural heritage tempts me to choose a chocolate bell (or even a chocolate fish) for Easter. Do you know why? I slightly recall a story about the bells going to Rome at Easter then being send out into the world. But I shall need to refresh my memory and find out more details so that I can include it in our family Easter traditions. How exciting! This is what I love about multicultural parenting, which constantly pushes me to the limits of me own cultural understanding. I question myself: why I am used to this or that, why should I celebrate it this way or that way? It’s our choice as parents to dig deeper to understand more about our own roots. To my mind it’s fascinating as it makes sense of various traditions and provide stories which we can become part of our family life.
For all who can’t believe other stories than the Easter Bunny one, I was very excited to explore the richness of the internet in the matter of “Easter bells”. Please enjoy this short Franco-English video 🙂