Saturday, March 30, 2013

Holiday Traditions

I grew up celebrating Easter, but we often we would attend a Seder with Dad's family in Philadelphia. Mostly I didn't understand anything that was happening during the Seder, and I'm not necessarily sure that I was alone. Poor Dad would often lead the Seder because he attended a Jewish high school after getting bounced from public school. He is a great speaker, he's a professor after all, but he looked like he wanted to be swallowed up by the high-pile white carpet in my Aunt Shirley and Uncle Harvey's apartment as he struggled to read the Hebrew. One of my younger cousins would have to ask the four questions and Dad would wipe the sweat from under his yarmulke while the attention was on someone else. When the Seder finished, my grandmother would always complain, "is that it? I remember it being longer," in a disappointed voice. "Nope, that's it," Dad would say quickly, closing the prayer book with a snap.

Then we would eat. The food is what I really remember best because it was so unappetizing to me. I didn't mind my grandmother's matzoh ball soup, but the plain matzoh was like eating cardboard and the gelatinous gefilte fish with the bright magenta horseradish looked too revolting for words. When my grandmother would remind us that we had to leave the door open for Elijah, I would wonder why she thought anyone would show up to eat the food. At some point, people began taking broad liberties with the menu and my aunt started making atomic chicken wings. This came in handy when Passover coincided with March Madness.

When I was about eight, I asked Dad what the Passover celebration was about and he explained that the Egyptians had enslaved the Israelites and that God helped the Israelites escape from slavery by inflicting ten plagues on the Egyptians. The worst plague was the death of the first born son of the Egyptian families. God told the Israelites to put lamb's blood on their doors so that the spirit of the Lord would know to "pass over" the houses of the Israelites and spare their sons. I thought it sounded like a horror movie.

Then again, I thought the story of the Resurrection was scary, too. The children all learned the Easter story at school and when they were each four, I asked them to tell me the story of Easter. Here's the Girl's version:

Me: Why do we celebrate Easter?
Girl: Some people didn't like Jesus and they killed him. They put him in a tube for three days.
Me: A what?
Girl: A tube. Like those tubes we crawl through at the playground.
Me: It's a tomb.
Girl: What's that?
Me: A place where they put people when they've died.
Girl: Ohhhh. Well, when they checked the tomb he wasn't there, so we celebrate Easter.

The Boy was also interested in the tomb:

Boy: After Jesus died they put him in the...the...I can't remember.
Me: It starts with a "t."
Boy: A teepee! They put Jesus in a teepee.

I just asked the Baby about Easter and maybe the teachers have decided to skip the tomb because it didn't come up with her. Here's what she said.

Baby: The woman went to find Jesus and he was gone.
Me: What woman?
Baby: Jesus' mommy.
Me: Where was he?
Baby: With God. He flew up to God to hunt some Easter eggs.

Ah, the hunt. Why did we ever start hunting Easter eggs? If there is one activity that is pretty much the antithesis of what Easter is about, it's the Easter egg hunt. If you ever do one of those massive group egg hunts, there are always a couple of kids who get really competitive and push the toddlers out of the way so that they can get the. most. eggs. And then they brag to the other kids about their huge stash of eggs and make the other kids cry. That is so not what Jesus would do.

The Easter Bunny has been to our house and hidden eggs (inside because it's raining) and filled up the Easter baskets with goodies:

The Girl's basket

The Boy's basket

The Baby's basket
Instead of just candy and cheap plastic toys from Target, this year the EB got the big kids books (Wonder for the Girl and Big Nate does something that I can't remember for the Boy) and a movie (Wreck It Ralph) for the Baby. The EB knows that I'm sick of cheap plastic trinkets for these holidays and decided to get each kid one big thing, rather than waste money on a bunch of small things that will break and end up in a landfill. As for the candy, they'll be getting plenty on the egg hunt, but we are short some marshmallow Peeps because of this:

Happy Easter!


  1. Passover seder was the worst food I've had this year. I'm in charge of bringing dessert -- chocolate covered matzoh. Some of us would have starved without it. Looks like the shiksa is going to have to take over the menu next year.

    Thank God for Easter and honey-baked ham!

  2. Variety of traditions, many of them can be followed even in today's modern world. I am both amazed and shocked.