Apr 4, 2010

Easter @ The Intersection of Memory Lane

Here's a deep theological and meaningful question for you: How would the world function if Starbucks wasn't open on Easter (and other holidays, at that)? Okay, just to keep your minds at ease, I am at Starbucks, but I'm not partaking in the coffee (or anything else for that matter). I bought one of those really overpriced bottles of water that will help save the children of the world; I brought my own iced coffee from home. I figure I probably could have gotten by coming in here and just sitting (since I'm here all the time anyway), but that would have left me seriously guilt-tripping. So it's water. Water for free Wi-Fi and the ability to be in my "office"-like mentality in which I prepare to grade 80 undergraduate exams that will be ... interesting. The class is up to the Jesus as a Jew stuff, and that always makes for lively exam answers.

I'm actually surprised by the amount of people in here. I'm also surprised at the number of people on the road (driving to church?). I made a trip to Wal-Mart last night for some Pesach cooking utensils, and the rush at 9 p.m. was insane. People (obviously parents and grandparents) were shoving chocolate bunnies and Peeps and marshmallow covered eggs into their shopping carts, along with those cheap easter baskets and that obnoxious grass stuff that you'll be picking out of your carpet for weeks. Ahh, memories.

I grew up, as you all well know, in a Christian community in a "Christian" household. Our holidays never included Jesus (sorry, dude), but rather the popular American themes of the holiday: Santa at Christmas, the Easter Bunny at Easter, etc. I got Jesus at Vacation Bible School with friends in the summer and later in high school I got it through clubs and church adventures and Weekend of Champions retreats (think: giant Christian slumber party).

As a kid, I woke up every Easter in a full sprint to my designated Easter bucket. My parents, you see, bought each of us a bucket (my older brother's blue, mine pink, later my little brother's was yellow I think), stuffed with that annoying grass stuff. My favorite treats were the chocolate covered marshmallows (which, luckily, are a Passover favorite now) and those little candy-coated chocolate eggs. My mom bought Peeps by the case, it seemed like, and we'd eat them while watching television and waiting for dinner. Sometimes we got nicer treats, things that actually weren't food and could come in handy (toys, that is). Dinner usually consisted of ham, cooked in some honey-BBQ combo and all the fixins that went along with every other holiday, like deviled eggs and mom's marshmallow/pineapple concoction. I remember one year mom wasn't in the mood to cook, so we ended up at Red Lobster for Easter eating shrimp and french fries. Now that was Easter eating.

As I got older, Easter got less interesting. I don't know when I stopped believing in the Easter bunny, but when I was in high school it became more about Jesus. Yet I didn't wrap myself up in the holiday; it just wasn't my way. I worked at McDonalds and then at Wal-Mart, and I always volunteered myself to work the holidays. I loved the pre-holiday rush (people-watching, that is) and the extra dollars in my pocket were nice. I suppose I should have known from the beginning that Christian holidays wouldn't be on my list of "things to do" in the future.

Then again, I've never been a big holiday person anyhow. Jewish holidays seem to wrap themselves into the fabric of the life of the Jewish people, however. It seems different in certain ways.

It's funny to think that many hundreds of years ago a Jew sitting in a Starbucks on Easter Sunday would have been a death sentence. I find it less weird to be out and about at Christmas because I know that a lot of the background behind Christmas isn't historically accurate (but still, mad props to my Christian friends, I love you guys; and I know a lot of the Jewish holidays have their issues, too). Being out on Easter makes me a little uncomfortable. Is that normal? Residual fear from the Middle Ages a little weird? Probably.

Anyhow. I've got about 80 exams to grade and then some food to cook for the last two days of Pesach (and seriously, baruch haShem, because this holiday is eating away at my insides and making me physically ill [that's not just me overreacting, I really am physically ill]). So Happy Easter to my Christian readers, Moadim l'simcha to my Jewish readers, and to all my Muslim and Pagan and Buddhist and Wiccan and Hindu and Atheist and Agnostic readers -- enjoy your Sunday, mmk?


Melissa Chapman said...

Chaviva- your life, decisions and history-- is so incredibly interesting to me. I love reading anything your write- as it gives me a window into a different perspective on Judaism and Christianity-- and well I just love your voice.

Bethany said...

Out of all the Christian holidays, I think Easter is the one I actually miss. We'd do brunch, colour eggs, and I'd get a basket Monday or Tuesday after everything had gone on sale.. I still plan on buying Easter bunnies on sale, but it's not quite the same. I think I miss it because I really dislike Passover, and Easter always falls in the middle of what feels like an 8-day fast. (I really love carbs).

Suburban Sweetheart said...

My mom always hated Easter, but we half-assedly partook in some of the celebrations because my dad was Christian & much of the rest of my family was. I like Easter food - ham & candy, what's not to love? - but I always hated the stupid pastel color scheme, the weird "He is risen" slogans that make it sound like a zombie holiday, the rabbits everywhere. I've never been down with Easter like I am with Christmas. But I DO look forward to tomorrow's candy sales :)

jacsuza said...

I find it fascinating to watch the Christian holidays as an outsider now. I grew up Protestant and we celebrated the religious aspects as well as some of the secular aspects of the holidays. I marvel at how even more commercialized both Christmas and Easter have become and very glad that I no longer have to play along with it.

(PS -- as for your tummy ache -- try more protein and veggies and much, much less matzah. Good luck!)


Shades of Grey said...

Really interesting - I also have watched the goings on for years now in my small, very predominantly Christian hometown. It's interesting to hear the views of someone who seen life from both perspectives.

I have never figured out why watching "The Ten Commandments" is an Easter tradition, though.

Tzach M. P. said...

I'm not really sure what I think about Easter anymore. Being away from family and all the usual stuff this year I don't really have think about it, and as usual today just feels like another day. But being on the outskirts of two religions and being away from the places that I call home makes it weird... It's hard to explain. Like nothing is sacred at the time being. Blah :( Sad to say I'll probably just end up working today.

Ahh well, happy rest of Pesach to you. :)

Kat said...

Easter is also appropriated from pagan holidays (hence all the eggs). In the modern pagan standard calandar it's been moved to the equinox in March so Easter's all candy and boozy brunch to me.

Chaviva said...

@Melissa Thank you so much for your AWESOME and uplifting comments :) Readers like you keep me chugging along in the word world!

@Bethany Why do you really dislike Passover? Is it the obvious reasons (no chametz) or something else?

@Suburban Sweetheart Did you snag any awesome sale candy? My mom used to go out and buy -- you guessed it -- more peeps.

@Jacsuza Thanks for the advice! The interesting thing is that although Jewish holidays like Passover aren't as commercialized as the Christian ones, a lot of the same crap happens. Prices are driven up, there are specialty products that cost an arm and a leg, and the big companies like Streits and Manischewitz commit highway robbery on our good senses!

@Shades You know ... I never watched that movie. On Easter. On Passover ... does that make me a bad former Christian and current Jew!?

@Tzach It's all good. You're in the middle, and that's cool. It's a weird oasis of weirdness, for sure.

@Kat Yup! It's interesting how so much of what we know and understand of religion and traditions comes from pagan holidays and beliefs. I mean, a lot of what the early rabbis created came from experiences in Greek and Roman society. The Passover seder has many things borrowed from both societies and their practices, pagan or cultural.

Single Mom in the City said...

I caution you and some of your readers to generalize that all Christians commercialize their holidays. Some of us give just as much respect to the actual meaning of the holiday than may have been your experience, or what you see others doing on Easter. Just because your family didn't doesn't mean that all don't. For my family this was a spiritual holiday as much as a family gathering and it was treated with reverence.

Chaviva said...

@Single Mom in the City I don't think I ever said that all Christians celebrate the commercialized versions of the Christian holidays ... I don't think anyone on the planet would even suggest that. I mean, I grew up in the Bible Belt of Missouri and then in Conservative Nebraska, where to just about EVERY one of my friends, Christian holidays *were* inherently important because of their religious nature. Not sure where you got that sentiment from :)

Rachel said...

Shades of Grey- I think the reason that "The Ten Commandments," seems to go w. Easter is because it is in fact, on TV for Passover- which starts the Counting of the Omer. Today, it's Shavuos, marking the end of the counting of the omer, and when we received Torah (I finished watching the movie last night). I was raised Christian but have a Jewish soul.

Single Mom in the City said...

The "sentiment" comes out in your writing, which you do so well. Reading between the lines it is clear that Easter was about candy, cheap Easter baskets and fake grass, whereas: "Jewish holidays seem to wrap themselves into the fabric of the life of the Jewish people, however. It seems different in certain ways."

And: "where to just about EVERY one of my friends, Christian holidays *were* inherently important because of their religious nature." You say *were* as if every one of your friends no longer celebrates Christian holidays in a religious nature anymore? That's a pretty blanket statement.

I love your blog and am learning so much about your life these days but...your Christian experience and that of your friends is not the same experience or perspective that we've all had ... that's all I'm saying. Food for thought, or candy, as it "were." :)

Anonymous said...

My own experiences with those holidays: Christmas could be bad enough; "Easter"...nothing in the secular Easter tradition had anything even REMOTELY to do with the "reason for the season..." but, try as you might to get away from the Bunny and the plastic grass...as long as there were kids involved, it was hopeless. You were trapped. If you opted out, tried to focus on anything more meaningful, you were a meanie. So that plus economics made the holidays kind of a hit-and-miss affair for us. Sometimes we caught the true spirit of the holiday; sometimes we didn't. Oy.

As for "The Ten Commandments:" it wasn't always that movie. It could be anything even remotely Biblically themed--like "David and Bathsheba." I think it was the result of secular people at the networks with no clue about what Christianity or Judaism were all about, going, "It's Easter, right? Put on something religious. Yeah, that's religious, isn't it?"

Sorry to sound so gloomy--as you can tell, I've never been a fan of secular holiday culture. I can definitely understand Chaviva's comment that the Jewish holy days feel so different--they still center on HaShem, without all that competing pressure and distraction.

(BTW, does anyone seriously think HaShem talks like that? ;)

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