I spent the Easter weekend thinking about family traditions, my own and others. Growing up, our Easters began Mass first to celebrate the Resurrection after the long season of Lent, followed by what seemed to me (small heathen that I was) to be the real celebration, my father's Easter basket hunt with rhyming clues and much hilarity. He wrote the most awful doggerel into his clues ("Roses are red, violets are blue, go and look, in Daddy's left shoe") and we loved reading them and running to each new place around the house and garden to find the next folded paper with his distinctive handwriting and whimsical poetry on it. Until, finally, we would find our Easter baskets (when young) at the end or a big box of Whitman's candy for the whole family once we were older. I don't know if our tradition was followed in my Dad's family, or if it was his invention, but I have kept it alive with my Fairy Godchildren and plan to do it for our grandchildren, too.
This year, My Beloved and I were invited to experience our first Passover Seder dinner, complete with traditional foods and prayers. Our hosts provided everything for the dinner so, after consulting with my other best Jewish pal, Janie, about an appropriate gift, we brought flowers for the party.
And what a party it was! Our hosts explained all the items on the Seder plate, each with its story and meaning, carefully prepared and placed in the center of the table. We opened the Haggadahs that Jeff's mother had brought along with her perky little dog who spent the dinner tucked behind her in the dining chair. The little dog may not have been part of the tradition, but she was a welcome addition. We recited traditional prayers and responses, beautiful words that called for peace, for sympathy with the currently enslaved, and for action to help whenever possible.
During the recitation of the story of the Jews' release from slavery and their wandering in the desert for forty years before finding their promised land, I was struck by the analogy to our two hosts, who each spent the early years of their lives alone before finding a sort of "land of milk and honey" in each other.
We tasted all the different flavors, new to us - the sweet wine, the bitter herbs, the salt water to dip the parsley in, the gefilte fish, the matzo ball soup, the chopped liver, the Charoset made with apples and nuts, the roasted brisket, all the flavors I had heard about but never experienced. Our favorites were the matzo ball soup that Sari made (the matzo balls were light and lovely and the broth rich with chicken flavor), the Charoset of apples and nuts that Mrs. Heyman made, and the brisket that Jeff made, but perhaps the true highlight of the meal were the macaroons Jeff baked from scratch for the dessert. Made with almonds, walnuts, sugar, and eggs, they were a sweet ending to a lovely tradition. We even got to bring some home. Shalom, and thank you, Heyman family!
The next day, Easter Sunday, we were invited to join My Beloved's family for a non-traditional Easter, but very Californian, dinner of ribs lovingly smoked by our s-i-l, André, and the very traditional Easter egg hunt for the children in the back yard. We were pleasantly surprised by a quick visit before dinner from the girls' cousin, Brandon and his daughter June and his Dad, down from Seattle and out from New York city. While the children played, we enjoyed catching up with their doings. So fitting to have far-flung family around on Easter!
My own Easter tradition is to tell the following riddle in honor of my father who art in heaven. He loved corny jokes, and so do I. This one always rolls out on Easter in my house.
Q. What do you get when you pour steaming water down a rabbit hole?
A. Hot, cross, bunnies! (I know - groan!)
What are your Easter/Passover traditions? Whatever they are, be sure to keep them going - they are the stuff of family joy.