I sit and listen in silence, following each step as instructed. I know this is a solemn and serious occasion. I glance around at the other tables in the hall; all heads are bowed as we listen to the reading. I wonder how many people know that today is also a day that some Christians celebrate in the form of a Paschal meal. Like the Jewish Passover we reenact the night the Jews left Egypt known as the Exodus.
There are so many festivals and celebrations that occur during the year, one of them being Easter. Easter is one of the most important Christian festivals, but you don’t have to be a devout churchgoer or believer to celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ. So many people celebrate Easter in less religious ways; much like Christmas. They enjoy the holiday but use it as an excuse to have a family gathering; while there is nothing wrong with this, they miss the fundamental teachings that are part of the Easter celebration.
Jewish communities begin the celebration of their Passover on the same day that some Christians celebrate Paschal meal. The Paschal meal is a Christian practice that follows the Jewish Passover; there is a Seder plate and the gathering symbolically reenacts the last meal that the Jews had before they left Egypt. The Seder consists of a lamb, an egg, bitter herbs, green leaves, wine, haroseth and matzoh. Each is as symbol of the Jews plight from Egypt.
The lamb is a representation of the actual lamb or sheep that were slaughtered as a sacrifice to God. The matzoh is unleavened bread like the bread prepared for the hasty flight from Egypt, there was no time to wait for the dough to rise and that is why it is unleavened. The bitter herbs or maror is usually horseradish and is a reminder of the suffering and slavery the Jews endured while in Egypt, literally the bitterness they felt. The green herb is usually parsley and is dipped in a bowl of salt water before eaten; the salt water represents the tears shed during the exodus from Egypt. The haroseth or haroses is a combination of apple, cinnamon, wine and nuts and symbolises the mortar used in the building of the Pyramids and other great buildings. The wine is shared from a common bowl or bottle as a symbol of unity, four cups of wine are drunk during the meal, this represents the four different words in the Book of Exodus all signifying redemption and liberation. The egg is a representation of new beginnings, hence the celebration taking place in Spring.
If you learnt something completely new from treading that then I’m sure you’re not alone. Many people are unaware of the Christian ‘version’ of the Passover meal and while many know of the Jewish Pesach celebrations they do not the significance or origin of it. It must be questioned whether the loss of tradition should be accepted even as society changes. Many people note the loss of these ancient traditions and celebrations, some non-religious, and wonder if we should accept this.
While we live in this ever changing world that introduces to new things so rapidly, shouldn’t we hold on even tighter to our ancestral traditions as a connection to our past? They feel like heirlooms being passed from one generation to the next, something that you ought to treasure and protect. I enjoy partaking in something that is rooted in such a significant but ancient event. The act of retelling and performing the night of the Jewish exodus from Egypt connects you so intrinsically to those people; even though you are here now and they are long gone, you feel so close to them. It is a unique feeling that I believe can only be created through these ancient traditions. Typing on my iPad does not ever make me think of inventors of the 1800s but rather some futuristic nation of the 3000s. Going to church and participating in religious festivals stirs a strange feeling of religious patriotism I me.
I am relatively new to the celebration of the paschal meal and it makes me wish that I had grown up celebrating it. I went through my childhood unaware of the Catholic celebrations during Holy Week; the week leading up to Easter Sunday. All I knew was that on Easter Sunday Jesus was resurrected and we mourn and celebrate his sacrifice. Many people go around celebrating Easter in this way, but there is so much more to it and it is a very significant time.
So what now? Nothing, you don’t have to do anything. My aim was mostly to educate and emphasize the fact that many of us are unaware of the significance surrounding Easter. It is not a commercial holiday, and that it is deeply rooted in numerous historic events.