Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter? What Easter?

This is the first year in nine years that I've observed only one Easter. It's also the first time I've ever gone without observing Easter.

Wait. That doesn't make sense (except for those of you who've known me for a while). How can I observe one Easter and not observe Easter? Well, to catch up the rest of you with those who have already guessed and are wondering why I'm making this such a big deal, my wife is an Orthodox Christian, which means I've observed Greek Orthodox Easter since we've been dating. I, on the other hand, grew up in one of the multitudes of Western traditions, which means that in my dirty little heart-of-hearts, Easter was today. The Orthodox won't observe Easter this year until April 27. Given that I love my wife and have always encouraged her religious beliefs, I've observed two Easters every year for the past nine except for the one year both Easters overlapped. Part of the difference is in the calendar of choice for each religious institution. The Orthodox still cling to the Julian calendar for determining religious festivals while the Western churches use the Gregorian calendar like the one hanging on your kitchen wall. Another reason is that the Orthodox require that their Easter be tied to Passover. That makes sense given that the time of the crucifixion of Jesus death is given in relation to Passover in the Bible.

Anyway, this year I didn't observe Western Easter. It's always been my mom's family's holiday. My dad's family doesn't do anything as a group for this holiday, but my mom's family didn't do anything for the holiday this year either. Part of it was that I had planned to be out of town this weekend until a rogue tennis tournament got in the way, and part of it is that Easter holds no religious importance to my family. My mom's family is almost entirely Primitive Baptist, a denomination that doesn't observe any religious holidays. They've got no issue with celebrating them as a family or cultural holiday, but for the church, it's just another day. We ended up eating grilled pork chops, green beans, squash and onions, mashed potatoes and banana pudding with my parents, sister, her boyfriend, and watched the baby try to destroy things. There wasn't a cross or chocolate bunny in sight.

Despite this dearth of Easterocity (I made that word up, by the way), it doesn't mean that I have to go without my annual dosage of colored eggs and enough candy to put me into a coma. On the Saturday before Orthodox Easter, K and I will trek up to Atlanta to attend the midnight service her church does each year. We'll stay up late, turn off the lights just prior to midnight and spread the flame of a single candle throughout a congregation of candles. Then we'll march outside, sing Christos Anesti a few times, go back inside for some more ritualistic stuff and then head over to the social hall for a late night snack of Magiritsa, a lamb, lemon and dill soup that I really dig. The only problem is that the lady who makes the soup that goes on first each night is the only one who makes the really good version, so you have to be quick to make it back in time for seconds of the good stuff. The traditional soup is supposedly all the innards and head meat that didn't make the feast for later in the day but lets you break that meatless fast ASAP. I'm pretty sure the stuff at K's church is just lamb meat, partly because it's just so darn hard to find lamb's head, heart, and intestines in the local megamart these days. Still, it's freaking awesome. Then we'll crack our red eggs (they only use red-dyed eggs) and eat Easter bread with a coin baked inside the next morning. I'm sure that'll sate my need for ritualistic holidays. Plus I'm sure K's mom will still have a ton of Easter chocolate for us in the morning. Those wacky Orthodox kids always got a ton of candy because their parents usually get to buy it all on clearance the Monday after the rest of us were suffering our post-Easter stomachaches.


Mickey said...

Feasting: the best justification for religion yet.

Chris said...

Yes, Mickey, but the feasting is meant to come as a break from fasting. Not so appealing anymore, is it?

There's something about rituals that appeals to me. Or maybe it's just other people's rituals, because I'm curious about them. Either way, the Southern/Independent Baptist traditions I grew up in are short on good rituals.

Unless you count badly-produced Christmas plays. Baptists love those.

Jacob said...

Chris, for a brief moment I started to wonder if I was missing out on all the ritual (Primitive Baptists make Southern and other Missionary Baptists look like wild-eyed mystics) then around the second or third Easter it started fading for me. It went some awe-inspiring, to creating a little tingle, to something that was just a bunch of hoops to jump through. Plus, all that ritual eats into time for religious learning. The average Baptist knows much more about their branch of the religion than the average Orthodox in my experience.

Chris said...

Yeah, kind of what I suspected. It seems much more "awe-inspiring" when it's new or foreign to you.