22 years ago I, a Catholic, married a man who is Jewish in an interfaith ceremony. Officiating was a cantor (Jewish) and a Unitarian minister. I nixed the idea of a priest and honestly, at the time, I doubted that any would have performed the ceremony. We were not the norm back then, as most people and family failed to understand how two such divergent traditions could meld. Nevertheless, combine we did as we raise our children Unitarian, the perfect mix of both traditions where participants are encouraged to find their own truths while being exposed to mainstream doctrines. Still, some people still wonder how, during this week in which Passover and Easter overlap, interfaith families celebrate these traditions, if at all.
In our home, it is important that our kids understand the various traditions and concepts of both holidays. Both know the meaning of the Seder and our Seder plate has had some rather interesting incarnations. While the traditional plate consists of the haroset (a mixture of apples, nuts, etc.), shankbone, egg, horseradish, parsley, and another bitter herb, the kids and I have gotten creative, substituting McDonald's apple slices for the haroset, a chicken bone for the shankbone, relish for the horseradish, and even an Easter egg as the egg. Does it matter that the platter is incorrect? No. It's our way of celebrating the tradition and to my husband, the important part is that his religion is carried on with his kids, at least in some form. Similarly, we've served matzoh and macaroons during Easter dinner.
Last night, at our Seder, my son said the traditional prayers and we left an empty chair, as Jewish tradition dictates, to symbolize those people who live in lands where they cannot celebrate Passover as a free people. On Easter, in addition to the egg hunt and dyed eggs, we'll read the Easter story about an amazing man who gave up his life and defied the grave. We'll point out the fact that Jesus' last supper was, indeed, a Passover Seder which drew people who loved each other together.
Families of different traditions know we have to compromise, picking and choosing carefully which traditions we embrace. InterfaithFamily, an group that promotes Jewish choices for interfaith couples, found in a survey of 327 respondents that while 58% say they will participate in Easter celebrations, only 5% will choose to tell the Easter story. And while 96% say they'll participate in Passover celebrations, only 66% expect to tell the Passover story. Interfaith families, as really all families do, adapt and change the people within them grow and develop.
How will your interfaith family celebrate Easter and Passover? For suggestions and perspectives, visit these links:
- http://content.usatoday.com/communities/Religion/post/2010/03/passover-seder-jewish-holiday-easter-/1 – USA Today ran an interesting article entitled "One God, two holidays: Passover and Easter At Jewish-Christian Tables" that is certainly worth a look.
- http://www.livestrong.com/article/1000663-bringing-up-children-jewish-catholic-faiths/ - This article from Livestrong.com points out that "Interfaith couples who actively participate in the other's places of worship and celebrations give their children permission to explore the teachings of Catholicism and Judaism and make their own decisions.”
- Whereas most websites I've found have a slant toward one
religious tradition over another (usually Jewish over Christian
because more Jewish sects reach out towards interfaith families than
the various Christian groups), this article provides a fairly
balanced viewpoint with some delightful melding of traditions, for
example, serving matzoh brie at Easter breakfast.
- www.uua.org – The website
of the Unitarian Universalist Association explains how this
religious organization embraces and welcomes the beliefs of all.
No matter how you celebrate this wonderful season, what's important is that as parents, we cultivate a sense of who we are and what our families believe going forward. Those beliefs provide a safety net for our children as they grow into adults.
Notes: 1.One source used for this article is www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/03/23/christian-jewish-passover-easter-rob-bell/2011307/.
2. This article first appeared on the website The Geek Parent (www.thegeekparent.com)