By Anna Brewster, Assistant Faith Editor
What in the world is Easter?
In the United States, it is often associated with jelly beans, egg-laying bunnies and a rainbow of pastel colors.
But as Easter approaches, the American version of Easter is quite foreign to several OBU students.
For freshman computer science major Karsten Ladner, this will be his first Easter in the United States.
He spent 17 years growing up in Malaysia before coming to OBU for college.
“I’ve never been in the States during Easter, so I’m not sure what to expect or how different it is than Malaysia,” Ladner said. “In Malaysia, Easter isn’t celebrated nationally, but it’s recognized by the Christians.”
Sophomore psychology pre-counseling major Katy Brannen and sophomore secondary education major Samuel Carver both spent nearly ten years in China.
Easter traditions there were mainly drawn from American culture.
“In China, there was never a Christian background,” Brannen said. “Sometimes, people use it as a day to give chocolate away and celebrate pastel colors.”
Easter is not a holiday in China, but Christians there still make sure to celebrate it.
“Our house church would always celebrate Easter together – everyone would bring food or do picnics or something,” Carver said.
“Sometimes, the group in my city would have a sunrise service on Easter.”
Another country in Southeast Asia, the Philippine Islands, has been strongly influenced by Catholicism in its Easter traditions.
Many Filipinos do the “alay lakad,” a nine kilometer walk for penance starting on the Thursday morning before Easter and ending on the morning of Good Friday.
Sophomore early childhood education major Hannah Jordan lived in the Philippines for 11 years and witnessed the “alay lakad.”
“They believe [the penance] will bring them favor so they can go to heaven,” Jordan said.
“Some people will carry crosses on their backs and whips themselves. And there are crazy parades with people just trying to do enough good to get to heaven.”
The ties of Catholicism to Easter tradition reaches across oceans as well – all the way to the Americas.
Sophomore physics major Felipe Ramírez is from Colombia, where Easter is taken very seriously.
Lent is practiced by many Colombians in the weeks preceding Easter.
According to BBC.co.uk, Lent is a season of reflection and preparation before the celebrations of Easter.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and is observed for 40 days.
Christians replicate Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and withdrawal into the desert for 40 days. Lent is marked by fasting, both from food and festivities.
The last week of Lent, Holy Week, in Colombia is filled with activity.
“There is a parade imitating how Jesus went to the cross,” Ramírez said. “On Thursday, in the churches they preach about the last seven words of Christ and celebrate the Last Supper,” he said. “On Saturday [before Easter], you go to visit the monuments and sculptures. You leave a candle and pray, like a pilgrimage.”
Freshman music education major Anne Aguayo has seen Easter celebrated in her home country of Mexico.
“[They celebrate] Carnival 40 days before Easter, party like crazy, then Lent. They drink and eat all the meat they can and then try to purify themselves before Easter, in theory,” Aguayo said.
Belize, formerly a British colony, and England share an Easter tradition different than the United States.
Instead of a one-week spring break for schools, there is a two-week Easter Break.
“On Holy Thursday, many businesses close until Tuesday,” senior communications studies major from Belize Robin Kuylen said.
“People take it like a holiday, so they go to Cancún and islands surrounding Belize.”
Markella Suka, senior communication studies major, grew up in England.
“Compared to [England], it feels like Easter in the U.S. is not that big of a deal,” Suka said. “Back home at least a week leading up to Easter, you would see ads on TV. There’s definitely a lot more preparation for Easter.”
As many Americans are preparing their new Easter outfits for family pictures and stuffing plastic eggs with candy, some OBU students made sure to bring into focus the “reason for the season” of Easter.
Jordan reflected on the meaning of Easter to many of the Filipinos she had witnessed.
“Most of them don’t understand what the Gospel is because they’ve never read the Bible,” Jordan said. “They just know what the priests tell them and what religion their family has followed. Satan does such a good job of lying to people.”
Junior physics major Luke Jarboe won’t forget his time living in Cambodia and celebrating Easter.
“The coolest part for us was meeting with the local believers and celebrating Christ’s death and resurrection,” Jarboe said.