Observing Spring’s Religious Holidays

Easter (April 21)

Traditions celebrated around the world today

By Calvin Beekman
Staff Writer

Everyone has their own way to celebrate Easter. Malls have court areas set up to have pictures with the Easter Bunny, while others spend the day worshiping at church. Easter customs have origins as old as civilizations.

     According to germany-insider-facts.com, Easter as it is known today stems from German customs such as the “Osterhase,” which means “Easter Hare.” This represents fertility and rebirth. Easter eggs have been used in connection with the spring equinox; they were often decorated with intricate designs to show new life.

The Easter bunny is another familiar figure that has old origins. German and Switzerland both have tales of the Osterhase hiding the eggs for the children to find.

Christians view the holiday as the day that Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead after his crucifixion on Good Friday.”

Other countries have different ways of celebrating the holiday. In Sweden, children dress up as Easter witches wearing long skirts, colorful headscarves and painted red cheeks, and go from home to home in their neighborhoods trading paintings and drawings in the hope of receiving sweets.

In the Czech Republic, young people will gather in a social setting. The boys carry sticks made similar to fly swatters and will “tag” the girls that catch their eyes. The next day, the girls will throw ice water on the boys they like.

According to myczechrepublic.com, Christian traditions have been revived after communist restrictions were lifted. On Green Thursday, boys from the village would furnish wooden snakes that rattle. The rattling keeps Judas away.

Christians view the holiday as the day that Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead after his crucifixion on Good Friday. Traditionally, Christians attend Easter services, have an egg hunt and then will celebrate with a ham supper.

Patrick Daughtry, who teaches film and theater, had a more laid-back view on celebrating the holiday: “It really depends on what is going on in my life, sometimes I go to church and brunch with friends. Other times I stay at home and play with my dog and relax, it really just depends.”

Isaac Gutierrez, who is pursuing a criminal justice degree at Pierce, talked about his Easter plans: “We normally go to church and then have time with family and friends. We try to be more active with the religious reason, but sometimes life gets in the way.”

Many communities will have Easter events. Whatever the tradition, Easter is a great day to spend with friends and family.

Passover (April 19 - 27)

Once, they were slaves; now they are free

By Marji Harris
Staff Writer

Just about everyone knows about Easter – either the commercialized sugar-filled hype or the Christian version. However, unless someone has a background in some form of religion, Passover may get missed.

 It is easy to get Easter and Passover mixed up, since the two are celebrated so close together. But for someone of Jewish heritage, Passover is far older, beginning in Egypt thousands of years ago.

 A fair number of the 25,000 members of the Jewish community in Pierce County will gather on April 19 to celebrate the Passover feast. The first night is spent in homes as family and friends gather for a relaxing evening. According to Rabbi Debbie Steil in “What to expect at a Passover Seder” on reformjudiasm.com, the idea is to rejoice freedom, and to remember they are not slaves anymore.

“Seder” is Hebrew for “order” and signifies this meal is set apart from other dinners; it has a specific set ritual in which the food represents the history of slavery to freedom. The “Haggadah” – the telling – is read, prayers are said, and psalms of deliverance are sung.

Passover is more than just remembering the flight from Egypt. Memories of persecution and slavery are deeply embedded in the memories of the Jewish people. In the Passover ritual, they are reminded of where they were, and then they use those memories to look out for the less fortunate.

Even in today’s changing world, celebrating Passover still has relevance.”

Today’s tradition of Passover has changed from the days of Moses. Like many Jewish teachers, Rabbi Bruce Kadden of Temple Beth El in Tacoma, knows the history well. “The Passover ritual focused on the slaughtering of the lamb, cooking it, and sharing it in family groups with unleavened bread with bitter herbs and the telling of the story,” he said.

Changes were made to the ritual after the Romans leveled the Jewish Temple in 70 A.D, and the Rabbis discontinued the sacrificial practices. Instead, they added more ceremony to the meal. They kept the key elements of the unleavened bread and the bitter herbs, but other parts were added. Four cups of wine served during the meal represent the four promises that God made to free the Jews from Egypt.

Another of the elements served in the meal also has a special meaning. “The charoseth, a mixture of chopped apples and nuts and wine, signifies the mortar used in the making of the bricks, the salt water that we dipped the parsley in representing the tears of the people,” said Kadden.

On the second night, a community Seder is held at the local temple. Services are open to anyone. Even in today’s changing world, celebrating Passover still has relevance.

“The central core of Passover is remembering that we were slaves in the land of Egypt and based on that to make sure that we treat others appropriately. I think one reason that it is so widely observed is that people understand that it is a reminder that, having experienced persecution, we should work for peace and justice in the world,” said Kadden.