Public Comment

Commentary: Family Traditions: Easter and Passover

By Brooke Chabot
Tuesday March 25, 2008

My husband and I bounce through each year from holiday to holiday. Living in a bi-religious house, we have many to celebrate. Mostly they serve as a means to invite our friends and family over to our house to eat, drink and have a good time. The presents, candles, or type of food are all just a back drop to the same party. But Easter and Passover are different. These two holidays seem more in opposition to each other than any other. Maybe it’s because Hanukah isn’t as big of a holiday as Christmas that the duality doesn’t surface in winter. I think it is a given for my family that I will celebrate Christmas, despite the two religions that coexist in our home.  

When spring appears with the Easter Bunny lurking behind her budding flowers, I start to get the questions from my family. “Are you going to have an Easter dinner? Will you give Maya an Easter basket? Will you go to church?” This last question is most striking as I remember going to church one out eighteen Easters I spent at home. I understand that my mother doesn’t want me to loose the part of myself that connects me not only to her but to my culture and past. It’s just funny that Easter never really seemed like a big part of our family until it was threatened to be faded out. I don’t have anything against Easter, it’s just that I don’t consider myself a religious person and all that is left is really the bunny, candy and ham. At the same time, Passover is a dynamic celebration that is always our best holiday party of the year. We invite many of our friends who all make salty rich food that is hard to pronounce, and we drink too much wine as we read and sing one long story together around a table. How can the Easter bunny compete with that? A better question might be why have I created this competition between hidden eggs and afikomen? Wait a minute, couldn’t they be hidden together? 

Now that we have a baby girl to join our endless festivities, the stakes seem to be higher. I am trying to be mindful of not only the way we celebrate holidays but the meaning and purpose behind them. For example, during Christmas, I consciously only bought two presents for Maya, despite my urging need to buy her the world twice over. I wanted to focus on being with family and sharing our time together instead of the cacophony of presents that usually build below the tree. She was only 15 months, so I’m not sure she felt the impact of this focus, but it was a good first effort. Maybe next year we can do more to give to others or just to be there for those in need.  

Now I am left pondering the purpose and my own personal meaning of Easter. What message do I want Maya to receive from this holiday? As many Christian holidays coincide with the earthly worship traditions of the Pagans, the eggs, the bunny, and the basket all clearly represent sowing the seeds of a new crop. This is something I can emphasize to Maya as she collects her own eggs. We could even plant something together every Easter as a symbolic recognition of the spring season. It is a time of growth, power and beauty, all of which are not foreign to my little girl. 

Although it is not necessary to align the two holidays in any symbiotic way, I find myself wanting to reconcile my own issues between the two. So here it goes. Just as Easter can be interpreted as a celebration of the promise of all that is new, Passover represents the renewed optimism that life can continue and be more peaceful with increased tolerance. Spring is therefore a time for looking forward in expectation of all the bounty to come. I’m sure if we continued to expand our family to people of more faiths, we would find many more cultural representations of the same theme.  


Brooke Chabot is a Berkeley resident.