Sunday, March 31, 2013

Traditions Shared

Greetings All:

It is Easter Sunday, actually Easter Sunday evening.  Passover, that began last Monday at sundown, will be soon concluding.  Tomorrow is April 1st (and look out for the April Fools gags, they are coming.).  Easter and Passover mark in some unofficial way the coming of spring, the ending of winter (although the cold seems to stick around for a while) and a changing of the seasons.  Tomorrow the first pitch will be thrown out at baseball parks across America and March Madness is down to three games.  It is a time for change.

Although I am so looking forward to warm weather, fun, and more trivial stuff in general, I want to take a moment and comment on something that struck me this past week, a tradition shared.  For those of you who know me, you are probably aware that I am Catholic and my wife and kids are Jewish.  In our house, we celebrate both Passover and Easter. 

Passover is the story of how Moses led the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.  I understand that Wikipedia is not an "approved" academic source, but I think this write up is pretty good:

Also, if you'd like to learn more about the dinner, or the Seder, here is another source:

There is a ton of symbolism in this meal.  The matzo is the unleavened bread eaten.  It is kind of like a cracker or Melba toast.  The symbolism here is that the Jews did not have time to let their bread finish baking before their flight so they took it and ran.  I am not going into all the symbols but I do want to highlight the Seder plate.  It is featured in the photo at the beginning of this post.  There is one in the photo at the beginning of this post.  One of the Seder plates we have is one that belonged to my wife Dawn's grandmother.  The Seder plate is where symbols of the evening's meal are placed. 

The matzo is covered by a cloth, again, part of symbolism.  It is tradition for children to decorate this cloth.  On our table were both of our kids' coverings.  I thought it was a fantastic representation of generations.  I would be remiss not to mention that one of the reasons why this is so significant is that Dawn's grandmother survived the Holocaust.  Despite a concerted effort of evil to wipe out an entire group of people, she survived.  Not only did she live, but she went on with her husband to make a new life in America.  They had children, who had children and sitting around a table in Bettendorf, Iowa is yet another generation.  Although I am not Jewish, I am proud to be the father of two and consider it an honor to get to participate in this ceremony.  I must admit that I am not a fan of the hard-boiled eggs and the soup, but that to me is secondary to the joy of being with family, of sharing a tradition.

(My youngest daughter's gift from Grandpa, a Cinderella bank, adored with Easter Bunny ears.)

Now as I mentioned, we celebrate both holidays.  I went to Mass with my Dad and we did the obligatory brunch.  The formal events of the day concluded with our own egg hunt on the hill.  My youngest daughter cleaned up and it's like Halloween in our place, except the days are longer.  I cannot be too critical as I firmly expect to find a least a few pieces of that candy in my lunch this week. 

There are of course many comparisons with Passover and Easter.  There is some debate if the "Last Supper" of Jesus Christ was or was not a Passover Seder meal.  Here are a couple of sources if you are curious about it:

(The Da Vinci painting of "The Last Supper," public domain status claimed-

Both holidays for me have clear connections to renewal.  In Easter, it is simply this:  Jesus Christ is risen, a promise made is fulfilled.  In Passover, it is a celebration of a new start.  I found this quote from the Lubavitcher Rebbe:

"[o]n Pesach (Passover) we celebrate the liberation of the Jewish people from Egyptian slavery and, together with it, the liberation from, and negation of the ancient Egyptian system and way of life, the "abominations of Egypt." Thus we celebrate our physical liberation together with our spiritual freedom."

And I do not think it is in appropriate to relate this renewal to the coming of spring to nature's return.  The ground that was frozen a few weeks (or days) ago is starting to usher forth life.  I even look forward to cutting the grass again.

(The Easter Lily my Dad gave us today.)

For me, there is a connection between my two families, two faiths, two holidays.  At the center are traditions shared.  Some are more closely followed than others.  I suppose in a few years the early morning arrival of the Easter Bunny will be a thing of the past.  Future Seder dinners will likely involved other people, some I have yet to meet or even yet to be born.  What I find so wonderful is that traditions are things you can both share and make your own.  Of course symbolism matters.  Tangible things are what we can hold in our hands and see with our eyes.  And yet it is how we interact with them that put a unique mark on them that return in future years.  There is a reason why certain Christmas ornaments are treasured by parents and handled with the utmost care even though there is zero monetary value.  The reason is that it is something unique to the parent in that most special way. 

As we conclude Easter and Passover, I hope everyone got to experience a little and hopefully a lot of fun.  I also hope you put your own spin on family traditions.  I'll wrap this post up with a photo I snapped today that I like to think sums up the fun in our house after the seriousness of earlier in the week. 
Have a great week, month and spring!


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