Easter, Passover Reflections
In December after I had written my commentary on Christmas, a lady called me inquiring about the paper and asking if I had an agenda, citing my Christian-based column. I told her no and said I wrote the column because it was Christmas time. She pointed out that it was also Hanukkah.
For the record, I don’t have an agenda, but her comments did give me pause. Yes, the season celebrated Christmas and Hanukkah – and don’t forget Kwanzaa. But the fact is that I am Christian and know about Christmas. I feel it would be irresponsible for me to opine on Hanukkah or Kwanzaa when I only have peripheral knowledge of these holidays.
Which brings us to Holy Week leading up to Easter Sunday – and Passover, which begins Friday evening, April 6.
My best friend Amy is Jewish and over the almost 40 years (gulp!) that we’ve been friends, her family has invited me to a couple of Passover Seders. The presentation of the different foods, the prayers spoken so melodically in Hebrew and the gusto in which the holiday was celebrated left me with a warm understanding of Passover traditions.
Traditionally, a Seder table is set with a kiddush cup placed in front of the Seder leader for the ceremonial wine that will be drunk four times during the meal. Additionally, a Seder plate is also placed in front of the leader containing a roasted shank bone, karpas (a green herb or vegetable, usually parsley), a roasted egg, charoset (a paste-like mixture of fruits, nuts and wine) and maror (a bitter herb, usually horseradish, though some use romaine lettuce). Each food has a meaning – for example, the maror represents the bitterness of slavery that the Jews suffered.
The entire meal is a ceremony of remembrance and honor.
After the Seder meal is presented, the “real” dinner is served. I’ve enjoyed matzo ball soup, brisket, potato latkes and much, much more at Passover dinner.
This year, along with the celebration of Passover in Jewish homes, Christians are preparing for the greatest event in their history – the resurrection of Jesus Christ celebrated on Easter Sunday.
Palm Sunday – the Sunday prior to Easter – kicks off Holy Week. Holy or Maundy Thursday is the anniversary of Christ’s Last Supper with his apostles. Good Friday follows with the commemoration of the crucifixion of Jesus. I remember growing up Catholic attending Good Friday services and observing three hours of silence in respect for the hours Christ suffered on the cross.
Holy Saturday is a day of preparation for Easter Sunday, which could be celebrated after sundown on Saturday or on Sunday.
Even in our Catholic household, Easter morning brought colored candy eggs that were hidden in our home plus an Easter basket. I know that the bunny and eggs are symbols of fertility, but how they became connected with the risen Jesus is a mystery. However, I did read that eggs were forbidden during Lent, the 40 days of fasting leading up to Easter, so maybe that’s why they were introduced.
Growing up, Easter Sunday included new church clothes for my sister and I – hats, gloves, purses, and patent-leather shoes. It was a time to bust out everything beautiful and new.
Whether you celebrate the resurrection on Easter, the tradition of Passover or the arrival of spring, my wish is that you feel the excitement and wonder that is shared by so many.
These events are reminders of the hope given to us and the promises that so many have placed their trust in. I hope your holiday – whatever you celebrate – renews that spirit within you.