Columns, Opinion

Wake Me Up Boston: Why we celebrate

It’s that time of year — the less hyped version of Christmas season — when the festivities of Passover and Easter collide, signifying the start of spring and families coming together for the occasion. Passover, a Jewish holiday celebrating the freeing of the Jews from Egypt, marks an eight-day cleanse of leavened bread while reflecting on the Jewish plight and their fierce resistance to oppression. Meanwhile, Easter celebrates the revival of Jesus from the dead and the gift of life, approximately three days after his crucifixion, and is one of the holiest times of the year for Christians.

Both Passover and Easter hold significant religious meaning to their respective observers, and ironically enough, their individual purposes closely intertwine at the root. Jesus’ arrest is said to have occurred during the Jewish Passover, and Jesus’ Last Supper is assumed to have been a Passover Seder. Regardless, the two holidays converge based on their emphasis on history and the existence of something holier.

Beyond the obvious purpose of religious observance, Passover and Easter are times when families and friends from all over get together and rejoice in mutual appreciation for tradition. Generally speaking, most of the time we aren’t even fully aware of what we’re celebrating beyond the most basic of definitions — the kind you can find in the first sentence that pops up on Google when searching, “what is Passover?” or “what is Easter?” We celebrate based on presupposed obligation — on the understanding that observing these important holidays encapsulate our identity and what we were taught to believe because that’s the way it is. No questions asked.

Every time a holiday of this nature comes up, such as Christmas or Hanukkah, I always wonder if it is the commercialization of these holidays that makes them as widely known as they are or if it’s actually the significance of the holiday itself. I like to believe it’s a combination of both, but more than anything, it’s an excuse to round up long-lost relatives and gather around a table to enjoy a hearty meal. It amazes me how much food serves as a central unifier in every situation, utilizing the basic human need to eat and developing it into a social necessity. If your family is anything like mine, our most valuable quality bonding time almost always transpires over a meal. This is especially true on holidays like Passover and Easter, when the food associated with the holiday itself holds spiritual meaning and is meant to bring together family members.

In my family, there isn’t just one Seder that takes place, but various celebrations that occur throughout the time period of Passover to accommodate the entire extended family across many locations. While we are all family at the core, and a united front is ideal, grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins don’t always get along, and there are certain relationships that cross, which need to be accounted for. Holidays frequently mean the ensuing of family drama — however petty it may be — which is sad to think about, considering that family feuds go against the very purpose of these holidays. However, it’s inevitable and usually an automatic given when it comes to large-scale celebrations, because such is life. Not everyone is going to mesh, even if family is family during the happiest of times.

But when it comes down to it, regardless of the underlying reasoning for celebrating holidays like Passover and Easter and the family tensions that may result, the function behind their existence lies in tradition and community.

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