Spring Holiday Traditions
When I was growing up, Sunday mornings were for church. I loved putting on a dress with a full skirt and wide sash, and patent leather Mary Janes. I would stand in the kitchen in front of the oven to look at the reflection of my lower half in the glass door. I might even “tap dance” a bit to hear the click-click-click of my shoes on the hard tile floor, watching my feet shuffle to a beat present only in my head. Sometimes, the oven was already hot. My mother often placed a roast on the middle rack to cook slowly while we were away. The oven timer would be set so that we’d arrive home to a heady aroma and a slab of tender meat surrounded by a moat of flavorful juices, thick chunks of carrot and wedges of potato (my own take on this standard Sunday meal is here.
These days, as an urban mom of two married to a nice Jewish boy who knows little about Judaism aside from foods and the holidays with which they’re paired, Sunday mornings are either for 1) sleeping in, 2) barre3 classes (Katie’s 9 a.m. class is almost a religious experience) or 3) brunch. If I play it right, I can take the later barre3 class and do all three! We aren’t churchgoers. We don’t belong to a synagogue either. And yet, we are trying to bring traditions from each into our home. We celebrate the major Christian and Jewish holidays with rudimentary explanations of the purpose and significance of each. There is a bit of flying by the seat of the pants going on, to be honest.
As holiday explanations go, Easter and Passover aren’t the easiest. How do you tell a young child that a human being was nailed to a cross, died there, then came back to life again? Or that the hiding game we play with a piece of matzo is part of celebrating freedom from slavery? These are tricky concepts to explain to children, but important nevertheless. Their questions give us all a chance to reflect.
There is much fun to be had once we’re done talking about death and persecution. Following in the traditions of my own youth, I love to hide pastel-colored plastic eggs filled with jelly beans and coins on Easter morning. I can’t wait to see the kids eyes bug out of their heads at what the Easter Bunny has brought them (our bunny typically throws a toothbrush into the basket alongside peanut butter-filled eggs and sugar-coated marshmallows shaped like chicks – you know the ones!). I can make a mean Easter brunch (try this coffee cake or this fabulous bread pudding). And in the last few years, I’ve become just as eager to participate in a Passover seder. Whether we’re joining friends as guests or hosting our own, these coconut macaroons have become my specialty. They are a snap even for non-bakers like myself. (Isn’t the chocolate a nice touch? I think so! But if you are playing by the rules, the chocolate should be kosher. I think. Better to skip if in doubt. Sorry.)
This year, we’ll host a seder at our house. Having scared Andy off with my dry-as-a-brick-bat brisket last time, I’m roasting a turkey breast with vegetables and making a traditional apple-walnut charoset (I’ve used this recipe for the last several years with the very same bottle of Manischewitz I bought around the time my pre-kindergartener was born). The friends we’ve adopted as our local Jewish family will bring the kugel and the matzo ball soup. I love that this family, with whom we celebrate most of the major Jewish holidays, is every bit as unconventional and spirited as ours. Two dads, one adopted daughter and most importantly, a desire to carry forward traditions of food, family, togetherness and love. Isn’t that what it’s all about anyway?