Each year when Spring arrives and pokes its head through the snow here in Chicago (not always successfully), I think back to the Spring holidays I spent as a child in New York. While I grew up celebrating Easter, I lived in a Jewish community in the Borscht Belt of upstate New York. This meant I usually had the first days of Passover off from school. I also learned about Passover in school and from friends and I often was a guest at several Seder meals.
Even then as a teenager, I was a sponge: I wanted to learn everything there was about Passover, how the holiday came about, why certain foods were served, and all the other traditions. For me, and for many, this is what makes a holiday meaningful: knowing the traditions, telling stories of how our ancestors kept the traditions, and passing it on to the next generation.
My Passover Traditions
Currently, I don’t celebrate Passover on my own nor does my family here in Chicago, but if I were to receive an invite to a Seder meal (hint, hint), I’d be there in a New York minute. I’ve always enjoyed the foods and the traditions of Passover.
Also, perhaps because I was not subjected to the prohibition of leavened goods, I can appreciate a good matzo. Whenever Spring arrives, and I see the boxes of matzo stacked up at the grocery store, I’ve been known to pick up a box or two. With a little butter or cream cheese in the morning and a cup of tea, I’m in heaven!
My Easter Traditions – Old and New
As a child, Easter meant three things: a new Spring outfit, going to church, and an Easter basket filled with candy! As I got older, I developed a better appreciation for the concept of Easter – the message of renewal and resurrection – and attended Easter Vigil each year. This meant a three or four hour church service which started outdoors in the dark and ended with the lighting of candles in the church sanctuary at midnight.
Currently, I celebrate Greek Orthodox Easter which for 2014 is the same date as Western Christian Easter: April 20, 2014. Every four years or so, the Easter dates are the same, but they can be separated by as much as five weeks since the Orthodox church (this is partially because the Greek Orthodox Church remained on the Julian Calendar while others moved to the Gregorian Calendar).
Now Easter for me means a large meal of Greek food with my family and the dishes include roast lamb, Greek potatoes as well as those fabulous Greek pastries. But the meal can’t start without the Greek tradition of tsougrisma – a game played with hard boiled eggs that are dyed red.
Sharing and Preserving Multi-Cultural Memories
It isn’t always easy for most of us to preserve memories of different religious and cultural holidays. Why? Well it all has to do with what we celebrated while we were growing up. If you celebrated Passover each year, I’m sure you’re not as familiar with some of the Easter traditions and vice versa. With today’s blended families that often mix different cultures, races and religions, it can be a challenge to make sure that all memories are properly preserved.
Here are some ideas that you can put to use for any holidays during the year:
· Designate a “holiday keeper” in the family. If your family celebrates several different holidays, some which can overlap such as Easter and Passover, appoint someone to be the “keeper” of that holiday. This means they know the traditions and can explain them to others in the family. If possible, have them write down each tradition – perhaps one per page – and add photos too.
· Learn more about a holiday. If you feel there is a “blind spot” when it comes to knowledge about a holiday, then crack open a book or take to the Internet to find out more. Consider adding new traditions to an existing holiday that your family celebrates.
· Interview family members. Often, our sense of holiday traditions are in our memories and not written down. Either before a specific holiday or perhaps before or after the holiday meal, interview family members using Saving Memories Forever. Find out how they celebrated the holiday as a child and how the traditions have changed over time.
© 2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee
Thomas MacEntee is a genealogy professional specializing in the use of technology and social media to improve genealogical research and as a means of interacting with others in the family history community. For more information visit http://hidefgen.com.