During the spring, two major holidays of both Christianity and Judaism seem to collide together. These holidays of Easter and Passover are not only are central celebrations for their respective faiths, but they are undeniably linked to one another. In fact, it is said that Jesus’ famous last supper before his crucifixion and resurrection, which Easter celebrates, was actually a Passover Seder, or traditional meal.
No matter what religious leanings you have, both these holidays seem to also commemorate the glory of springtime, whether it’s an Easter egg hunt on the grass or indulging in green parsley during a Passover Seder. Here’s a glimpse at these two holidays, and the best way to celebrate them:
Easter, the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection on the third day after his crucifixion, is only second to Christmas in importance in Christianity. In more traditional sects, there are numerous holy days and rituals leading up to it, whether it’s the 40-day reflection period of Lent or Good Friday, which commemorates Jesus’ crucifixion right before Easter Sunday. More traditional families will often attend mass or other religious services during the day and conclude with a large family dinner.
The most common associations with Easter in popular culture, however, are to the Easter Bunny, multi-colored eggs and various candies given to children. Eggs are supposed to represent the tomb of Jesus, as it looks empty but soon a bird will hatch from it. The Easter Egg Hunt is a common tradition, with children often dyeing and decorating hard-boiled eggs and then the adults placing them throughout a yard for the children to go look for them. This practice, along with the Easter egg roll, is often commemorated at the White House in the United States, and has been a tradition since Rutherford B. Hayes was president approximately 136 years ago.
Not unlike the Christmas holiday, many of the traditions of Easter stem from pagan traditions. The Easter Bunny, for example, is thought to have many origins, ranging from general springtime lure to a pagan goddess of fertility who laid eggs and could transform herself into a rabbit.
This spring holiday commemorates the Jews freedom from slavery in Egypt, as written about in the book of Exodus in the bible. Jewish people throughout the world will often celebrate this with one or two Seders, which are traditional dinners with prayers, song and the retelling of the story of the escape from Egypt. This is most commonly done at home, away from the local synagogue with family or friends.
Passover lasts for eight days, and throughout the duration of the holiday Jews are not permitted to eat wheat along with several other grains. Instead of bread they will eat matzah, a type of cracker that is unleavened, or that has not risen with yeast or other types of leaveners. This holiday often takes a lot of preparation, including an annual cleaning of the house beforehand where all traces of grain are removed from the house and either burned or sold. In fact, the term “spring cleaning” is thought to derive from this practice.
There are several other special foods that are eaten during the Seder, including charoset, which is a mix of chopped fruits and nuts paired with a juice or wine to make a paste; maror, which is a bitter herb that is either traditionally horseradish or romaine lettuce; and matzo ball soup, which uses ground matzah to make dumplings to be floated in chicken soup. This holiday is also a celebration of springtime, with traditional fruits, green vegetables and even hard-boiled eggs, which is supposed to symbolize the cyclical natural of the year.