Blending the Holidays

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​In talking about how we balance an interfaith family, I’ve mentioned how I like to keep Christmas and Chanukah as their own holidays. Usually, the calendar cooperates by keeping them separate. The same goes for Passover and Easter. Usually, I can juggle Passover’s restrictions with Easter’s celebrations. When we would go to my mother-in-law’s for Easter, I tried to allow my kids to enjoy Grandma’s holiday her way without making our Jewish traditions …, well, restrictive.

For a long while, I bought all the new kosher for Passover cereal, pancakes, muffins, and the rest. It cost a fortune and we usually had several boxes of things leftover. By the time the next Passover rolled around again, they had passed their expiration dates.

This year, all I bought was a large box of matzo, Temp-Tee cream cheese, matzo ball soup mix, potato pancake mix, and macaroons. Oh, and gefilte fish.

The blending of the two holidays has been a bit more complicated since my baptism. I try to give both their significant place in our family.

Both promise death from life.

In our Exodus from Egypt, we began with the Ten Plagues, the angel of death and the first born. After forty years of wandering in the desert, we found new life over the Jordan in Canaan.

Easter begins with forty days in the desert, death by crucifixion, and life everlasting.

The kids see matzo and bunnies, chocolate and latkes. They get more latkes during Passover than Chanukah.

This year sees a lot of compromises. My church has a community dinner on Holy Thursday to commemorate the Last Supper, held before the Mass of the Last Supper of the Lord, the first day of the Triduum. It’s always lasagna. We will join my church and share the Holy Thursday meal with the other parishioners before Mass in spite of it being Passover.

I don’t know how it translates religiously, but in according both holidays proper observances, I think it brings the long held traditions to my kids. I never went to temple (kids weren’t really allowed), but I remember Seders and presents lined up for Chanukah. Lighting candles. Somewhere I still have my childhood Haggadah, dogeared and torn in places; colored and drawn on, and every year, read from cover to cover.

I remember Elijah’s wine glass sitting on our radiator with the front door open to let him in. This was unusual for my mother – her doors were always closed and locked, but not on Passover. There’s always a space for Elijah.

And by the same token, there’s always a space for learning, understanding, and sharing our traditions with each other.

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