“ქრისტე აღსდგა!”, my students proudly shriek. This annoys me.
I am a secularist. I don’t know that I’d go as far as a place like France or Turkey – I wouldn’t support banning religious garb in the public sphere, for instance – but I draw the line at anything that (even implicitly) requires me to take part in other peoples’ religions or rituals. This includes the call-and-response Georgian Easter greeting, which begins with the above exclamation which means “Christ has risen” and to which the customary response is “truly”. There is no way I am going to say that.
Georgian children have had no reason to question their parents’ religion, and I am not going to be the one to start them on that path. I am here to teach English, not to impose my beliefs about the metaphysical world, such as it is. I am also not going to affirm my belief in ressurection. As I recently explained, I have a strong personal objection to lying for the benefit of Georgians.
Unfortunately this leaves me at an impasse. The resolution usually involves me saying nothing, my students running to their coteacher to ask how to say “ქრისტე აღსდგა” in English then running back to me and mispronouncing “Christ has risen!” and me continuing to say nothing. Obviously this is less than ideal, but I honestly don’t want to get into it.
Now, I’m not one of these people who just goes around hating on holiday well-wishers. If someone wishes me a Happy Pi Day, I can appreciate the sentiment behind their well-wishing even if the celebration of pi is ridiculous in light of fact that the One True Circular Constant is tau. And anyway, there’s currently no delicious genre of food that is homonymous with tau, which means that until Vi Hart figures out what we should all be doing on the twenty-eighth of June we don’t really have much of a holiday to offer in competition. So pi day will suffice.
Similarly, Easter’s a good enough holiday in America. A magical bunny lays chocolate eggs somewhere in England and they’re shipped across the pond and consumed by millions of pre-diabetic children. There’s an Easter Egg hunt and fertility symbols and spring cleaning and a week off from school, and I ain’t mad at that. Even if you don’t believe that rabbits lay eggs, there’s a lot to enjoy in this holiday. In conclusion, I’d be content with “Happy Easter.”
If I’m being honest, as an adult I prefer passover. Tons of food, wine and song: my kind of shindig. Even if the songs are in Aramaic and Hebrew. BTW, the Hebrew language – now there’s ressurrection you can believe in. I think Georgians would like Passover; it’s like a supra, complete with four full-cup wine toasts (although they’re all to God, so that might get monotonous to Georgians… or not).
I’m getting sidetracked.
The point is, I can’t be the only one who gets uncomfortable when confronted with an assertion like “Christ has risen”, but doesn’t want to get into a religious argument with a ten-year-old. (Actually, I don’t want to get into a religious argument with an adult, either, and for exactly the same reason – I’m unlikely to encounter a line of reasoning I consider rational and cohesive, which means I will just end up needlessly frustrated). And as more and more foreigners come to Georgia, Georgians are eventually going to have to learn how to successfully interact with non-Christians – which includes learning not to make assumptions about what others believe.
I think this is important. I’ve gone on and on before about how Georgians, if they want to have truly successful interactions with foreigners, are going to have to reevaluate certain habits, including staring for days, treating women like property, dropping n-bombs, and letting their city streets become broken hazardous filthy garbage-infested stray dog warrens with cars taking up the whole sidewalk. I know these things give Georgia a certain rustic charm, but clearly the aspirational direction of Georgian society involves sharing Georgia’s beauty and wonderfulness with the world and reaping the associated economic benefits.
And while I don’t think that one week a year of invocations to a Messiah that the vast majority of the world does not believe actually rose from the dead is going to ruin Georgia’s tourism and foreign investment prospects, I do think that, as language teachers and cultural ambassadors, it is our duty to at least let Georgians know that when they say either “ქრისტე აღსდგა” or “Christ has risen” to foreigners, they are more likely than not creating a very awkward situation for their guests.
Part of teaching language is teaching when that langauge should be used. When dealing with a diverse international pool of potential visitors, the proper time to use “Christ has risen” is when you have already determined that the person in question is a Christian who takes the Bible literally – that is one who believes in the supernatural, rather than just the moral, aspects of what the Bible teaches.
In other words, almost never. Georgians should be keeping their “Christ has risen”s to themselves.
In one of my classes, I asked my coteacher to please explain to the students that, when talking to foreigners (in other words, when using English), “Christ has risen” is not an appropriate Easter greeting, and that they should just say “Happy Easter” instead. My coteacher did not oblige me and my students continued to shout “Christ has risen” and “ქრისტეაღსდგა!” in my face intermittently for the rest of the class.
This annoys me. Maybe next year I’ll put in for a few extra days of Easter vacation so I don’t have to deal with this situation, and just come back when the whole Easter spirit thing blows over.
Here’s a Rising I can get behind: