Celebrating Easter for Expat Kids
It can be challenging to celebrate Easter the way you would in the US or Canada.
It is hard to find Easter egg dye, plastic eggs, and, hardest of all, chocolate Easter bunnies in your local stores.
I have actually yet to find a chocolate Easter bunny in Panama. Although, I’m sure these days you can find them in Panama City and maybe even in David.
I have made my own using a mold I bought in the States. However, I used those chocolate bunny molds only twice.
I melted down Cadbury milk chocolate bars to create them. It doesn’t sound hard, but tempering it properly was a little tricky given my equipment. And then I had to do it while I was tired after the kids went to sleep, in order to keep their creation a secret.
At any rate, I retired my bunny molds. However, the possibility of making them yourself is something to keep in mind.
If possible, I try to buy Easter bunnies while I am visiting the States, particularly after I gave up making my own.
Of course, chocolate Easter bunnies are hard to keep hidden given that they must be kept cool or they will melt. Wrapping them so they are unrecognizable, and putting them in the freezer, perhaps under some frozen fish, works pretty well. Then pray that when the electricity goes out it isn’t out long enough to melt the bunnies.
(In general, if your electricity goes out, I recommend putting a big bag of ice (wrapped in a couple of plastic bags) in your freezer. It will save more than your bunnies! The bigger grocery stores all have generators, so you can continue to buy ice from them.)
Over the years, occasionally the Easter Bunny has been forced to give my kids large chocolate bars instead of bunnies. My kids prefer bunnies, but they seemed to be okay with the chocolate bars (see photo below). It is chocolate after all.
A Few Photos of Easter
In one of the photos in the gallery below, you will see one of the years where I did not have a chocolate bunny for my daughter’s Easter basket. She looks pretty happy with her haul anyway. You may also notice that I used leaves from plants in our yard as the “grass” for that basket.
I am sad to realize that I failed to take photos of many of our Easters. But I do have a few. Click on any photo below to start the slideshow.
Dying White vs Brown Eggs
The first time I dyed eggs in Panama, I was dismayed about the lack of white eggs.
Almost all of the eggs sold in Panama are brown. If you really want to use white eggs, I suggest you ask your neighbors to see if their chickens lay white eggs. Maybe you can do an egg exchange.
Actually, I quickly gave up my search for white eggs.
Dying brown eggs work just fine. The color is less vibrant, but deeper.
What to Use For Dye
When we first came to Panama in 2007, our town didn’t even have food coloring for sale in the stores.
However, finding things we could use to dye our brown eggs was actually a fun challenge.
Skylar, Reyn, and I enjoyed finding out what we could use. We discovered some wonderful berry-type seed that grew on a neighbor’s bush that worked well. We also used beets, onion skins, red cabbage, crayons, and more.
These days, our local Romero Supermarket usually carries food coloring.
Shopping For Easter Baskets, Plastic Eggs & More
I have had the best luck shopping for Easter at the Dollar Store (Todo del Dollar).
You can often find colorful plastic Easter eggs there, but not always. They almost always have baskets, woven, or in a pinch, plastic, to use. And in general, the dollar store is a good place to find all sorts of toys and other items for your Easter baskets.
Another pretty reliable option is City Mall. City Mall is like a Target, including the grocery store. They tend to have a good chocolate selection, some Easter-like, and various other holiday-appropriate knick-knacks and decorations.
Easter Egg Hunts
After you dye the eggs, you have to hunt for them! At least, that is our belief.
Reyn and I enjoy hiding the eggs. And the kids love running around the yard looking for them.
We usually invite a few other kids in the neighborhood to join in the fun.
If you live in an expat dense area, someone might be hosting an Easter egg hunt. I’d check the various Facebook groups and ask around. Sometimes a school will put one on as a “cultural” event. If your child goes to a local school, you might want to suggest they have an egg dying and hunt event as part of a unit on how other cultures celebrate Easter.
To “do” the Easter Bunny or Not
Of course, we don’t need to celebrate Easter here as we do in the States. But it was important for us to have our children feel part of both of their cultures – American and Panamanian. It is a personal choice. We have enjoyed it, even with all of its challenges.
This post was written in 2016. It was part of a larger post on Easter in Panama. But I felt it would be better as a separate article.