Holidays with a Common Thread

Over the years, I have become more interested in spirituality and religion, and especially where different traditions overlap and there are common threads. The commonalities of the holidays celebrated during this time are particularly striking to me this year as we navigate this pandemic.

Note: My insights here are boiled down and based on my limited knowledge. Please know that I mean no offense if I speak in some way incorrectly about anything that follows.

In Jewish traditions, Passover began this past Wednesday, April 8thand concludes next Thursday, April 15th. Passover marks the early Israelites’ exodus from Egypt and is a celebration of freedom from slavery. It is celebrated by the hosting of ritual dinners, called seders, and the retelling of the Exodus through stories and song. And then, there is the abstaining from eating all leavened bread (and some abstain from other foods as well) for a week. It is a time of rituals, gathering with loved ones, matzo ball soup and more.

For those who practice a form of Christianity, this week is Holy Week, followed by Easter on Sunday. Holy week is a series of holidays marking Jesus’s path to the cross, including the Last Supper, which was a seder. Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which signifies freedom from mortal sin and death. Practicing Christians also have been observing lent for six weeks leading up to Easter, some more strictly abstaining from meat, fish, eggs and fat, while others choose an item to give up for lent. And on Easter, Christians attend church services, revisit the story of Jesus’s death and resurrection through story and song. This is often followed by gatherings with loved ones or community brunch, an easter egg hunt, or other chosen traditions.

Here are the three similarities that strike me the most about these two holidays in particular:

  1. For both, practitioners experience a restriction or sacrifice of something, which is then lifted.
  2. Both are celebrated by gathering with loved ones or the community and sharing food.
  3. Both celebrate liberation.

There is another holiday I find compelling this time of year: the Pagan festival of Ostara, which takes place on the Spring Equinox, and celebrates the coming of Spring, new light, and rebirth. Paganism, which pre-dates Christianity, is an earth-focused tradition, and the calendar revolves around the seasons and the cycles of the earth and sun. Ostara has traditionally been celebrated with festivals and rituals, decorations and gifts such as eggs, rabbits and baskets filled with sweets. Sound familiar? Apparently a lot of the Easter practices (Easter eggs, the Easter bunny, and baskets of treats) were actually borrowed from Ostara traditions, and the name is clearly related. Cool, right?

Unlike the other two traditions, Ostara does not involve a practice of restriction, but much the same as the human liberation the Christian and Jewish traditions mark, it celebrates the liberation and blossoming of the earth and all living things after a time of darkness and dormancy.

Bottom line – the holidays celebrated during this time year are about celebrating liberation and rebirth. And with all of them, of course, there is also a period before that of imprisonment, darkness or dormancy.

I’m sure for many, it does not feel that we are being liberated right now, but rather the opposite. No doubt, many feel imprisoned by this virus, literally and figuratively. We may feel enslaved by restriction, fear, uncertainty and that which we cannot control. But perhaps this is the darkness before the light, the restriction and sacrifice before the liberation. Additionally, I hope during this time that we can celebrate the freedoms we areexperiencing, the rebirth that is already happening – parts of us coming back to life, and life blossoming around us, especially in nature (are you noticing the birds and the flowers more this year? I am.). I also believe there is hope for the light and liberation to come as we emerge from the darkness we are in right now.

In regards to the way these holidays are celebrated, that of course will be different this year. These traditions often involve gathering with those that we love. But this year, we cannot attend rituals in person or gather for large seders and brunches and festivals. Many do not have access to the resources they might normally have had to celebrate in these times. So there will be grief in these days – grief at the loss of what we had hoped for, and that is okay.

There is some grief for me. Easter has been more of a gathering holiday for me than a religious one – attending church and thinking of my grandmother (who had a graceful, quiet, yet strong faith), the traditions of the Easter Egg hunts my family used to host for the neighborhood (which my sister has taken on in her neighborhood as well), and brunch with those that I love. As an adult, I have hosted brunch with friends and family wherever I am, because it feels important to gather with people I love during this time, as it feels like a holiday about connection.

I honor that I am sad about what I cannot do during this time that I would like to, but I also am considering what I can do to feel connected and honor the holidays. I hope that if it feels right for you, you will find new ways to celebrate what you practice and believe. Perhaps it is attending virtual rituals, or a virtual visit from the Easter bunny on Zoom (we’re doing that), making yourself a delightful brunch just for you, going for a walk at dawn to honor the returning of light, or simply sitting with yourself to reflect on your beliefs and feeling during this time. No matter what it looks like, I hope that you can honor yourself, honor the traditions you hold dear, honor your beliefs, honor the liberation and rebirthing that is already happening around you (and that is yet to come), and honor all that connects us, seen and unseen.

I am sending you healthy, safe and healing thoughts as you navigate the ups and downs of this pandemic as well as the ups and downs of this holiday season. Happy Easter, Happy Passover, Happy Ostara, and Happy all the Spring holidays. I see you and I honor you.

In love and light,
Devin Green
The Connected Way

P.S. In my last post, I shared the poem “I carry your heart” by e.e. Cummings, and in one of my edits, I removed crediting him with the writing. That was an oversight and I absolutely want to give him credit for his wonderful poem.