Sunday, April 5, 2015

Celebrations & Observances, Then and Now

The Seder Plate from our  Passover dinner, Friday (April 3, 2015) night.  Photo by J. Berta
Greetings All:

This weekend marked a rather unusual occurrence.  Passover and Easter happened only days apart.  On Friday night, we had a Seder that Dawn led.  We elected to have an abbreviated event and yet it was a complete event for us and our guests.  For those of you who might not be familiar with Passover, it recounts the story of the Jews escape from Egypt.  Throughout the evening, there are references to various symbols.  The matzo, the bitter herbs, the egg (that I cannot eat, but that's a whole other story) the wine or grape juice, it all ties to the story of the Jewish escape and ultimate triumph over the tyranny of the Pharaoh. 

Then today was Easter.  It is the celebration of the resurrection of Christ.  As Monseigneur Parizek said during the homily, "Christ was busy going to the world of the dead and releasing the souls of the innocent."  (Or words to that effect.)  As I looked around the church, I saw that the sincerity of Msgr's message was resonating, at least to some degree, with the congregation.  

Later today, my Dad came over and before we grilled out there was an Easter egg hunt for our youngest daughter, Carly.  Cassie, our oldest, and her friend set it up and Carly was quite proud of her haul.

Then she saw the true motherload, compliments of her Grandpa.  Please see the photo below...

The Chocolate Bunnies from Grandpa, photo by J. Berta

Needless to say, by this point in the afternoon, we'd moved beyond the spiritual and straight into the commercial/secular aspect of the holiday.  With all the candy, it's like Halloween, except during daylight.

Later this afternoon, as I was doing a bit of yard work, I thought about other celebrations or observances of these two holidays.  Being a "hobby historian," I have a tendency to view things from the past and/or dates that have significance.

As I thought about Easter, I wondered when was the "first" celebration?  As it took the early Christians a while to be up and running as an organized religion, it was not until several hundred years after Christ's death that the feast of Easter was held.  I found this image from the 5th century on Wikipedia (I know, I know, not a valid source for scholarly matters, but this is my blog) and thought it was worth posting.

The  Rabula Gospels Crucifixion, public domain, full cite below in credits.

As for Passover, I learned today that one of the Nazi concentration camps was liberated on Passover, 1945, April 4th, to be exact.  This place of death and horror was Orhdolf, a sub camp of Buchenwald.  I've got a link to the story below that tells how one GI who was there was the great uncle of our Commander-in Chief.  I've also got a link to a story from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.  It's a hard, yet important read.

Photos taken by American Soldier Henry Raymond Malenfant at Ordruf Concentration Camp, given to The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, fair use/public  domain claimed.
I have to wonder when the Americans walked thru the gates of Ordruf if there was anyone there of the Jewish faith who had the strength or mental clarity to realize it was Passover.  As was Nazi SOP, when a camp was "evacuated" prior to U.S./Soviet troop advance, most of the camp prisoners were force marched.  Only the most sick and weak were left behind.  It is likely they were focused on their next breath, not on the Jewish calendar.  

And yet, I like to think that for those who were alive when American troops entered the camp, they knew, were convinced, that they had been delivered.  Been delivered from slavery, been spared the passing of the Angel of Death.  For some, perhaps only a few, next year might have been in Jerusalem.  

So as this Easter Sunday concludes and with it the third night of Passover, it is good to reflect on our own individual meaning of either one or both of the holidays.  Even if you're not religious, I hope you get a kick out of kids chasing after plastic eggs full of candy.  If you are a person of faith, I hope your observance brought you a measure of peace and joy.  And if you're somewhere in between, then I invite you to create your own definition, your own interpretation, of what the event means to you.  I don't think you have to dwell long on it, just enough to answer your own question.  

You'll know when you have an answer.

Be well my friends,


Sources:, public domain,
Crucifixion from the Rabula Gospels (Florence, Biblioteca Mediceo Lauenziana, cod. Plut. I, 560)., includes phot, fair use and/or public domain


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