Growing up Jewish always brought a host of questions this time of year. Did we really have to do the whole “matzah thing” again for an eight-day stretch? What was the deal with eating fish on Fridays? And that most perplexing of all mysteries – what do colored eggs, jelly beans, and rabbits have to do with commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ?
The sacrifices of the unleavened Passover diet were difficult enough for a bread-obsessed, food-focused kid, but watching my friends make what seemed to be drastically reduced abstentions with Lent and gorging on spiral ham, Peeps, and Cadbury eggs at Easter made this time of year even harder to swallow.
The passage of time and the onset of maturity have given me a more accepting take on the practices connected with these Spring festivals, but I’m still left with unanswered questions regarding my Christian brothers’ and sisters’ Easter observances. An attempt divine some answers via an Easter-themed google search may have given me more than I bargained for in the “things that make you go huh?” department. It should come as no surprise that the internet is filled with an abundance of informational sites that pop up when you type in “What is Easter?”, so grab a big proverbial grain of salt for my findings, and let’s dig in!
1) Did you know that depending on whom you believe, the name Easter stems from the pagan goddess Ashtaroth, goddess of Spring and Fertility, or the Egyptian fertility goddess Astarte, or the Anglo-Saxon fertility goddess Ostara. or…the commonality of all of these goddesses and their names leads me to my next point, which is…
2) Were you aware that the Christian holiday of Easter evolved from pagan celebrations honoring their fertility goddesses upon the arrival of Spring? There are even descriptions of families celebrating their savior’s resurrection by decorating their homes with flowers and bunnies, painting and hiding eggs, observing 40 days of abstention ending in a worship service at dawn and a ham dinner with all the fixings. Only these weren’t early Christians, they were Babylonian families celebrating the resurrection of their god Tammuz, who was led back to life by their fertility goddess Ishtar. Sounds a bit like Easter, only the events just described took place over 2,000 years before the birth of Jesus!
2) Did you know that the celebration of Easter wasn’t commonplace in America until nearly 100 years after the country was founded? The Puritans who arrived on our shores seeking freedom to observe religion in the manner they saw fit were leery of the pagan festivals connected with the arrival of Spring. These misgivings about the “chiristian nature” of certain holidays included Christmas as well. The appearance of Easter as a celebration of the mystery of faith (the death, resurrection and ascension to heaven of Jesus) became more commonplace shortly after the Civil War.
3) Lastly, the connection of rabbits and eggs to the holiday is somewhat murky, but both served as symbols of fertility and life dating back to some of the earliest pagan practices, and seemed to accompany the transformation of pagan spring festivals into what is more commonly known as Easter.
None of this, of course, is shared with any intention other than to illuminate some lesser known aspects of a celebration that is a mainstay in our lives. As is often the case, the celebrations and traditions that have been a part of many of our lives for as long as we or our parents and grandparents can remember are not necessarily what we might have expected. The research (if you can refer to a google search as such!) leaves us with the impression that no matter what the explanation, these times of year are likely descended from universal and time honored celebrations of man, hope, life, faith, and family brought on by the burst of life that arrives with Spring each year.
Most importantly, keep in mind that Spring and the arrival of the holidays like Easter and Passover create a wonderful time to gather with friends and family, be grateful for our many blessings, and send lots of beautiful arrangements from the folks at Exotic Flowers as a token of that gratitude! Happy holidays, and Happy Spring!
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Have you ever wondered about those “kosher for Passover” shelves that crop up in your local grocery store when Spring arrives? Are you one of those people who like to eat the “matzah crackers” your jewish friends choke down this time of year while you’re obliviously munching on chocolate bunnies? Or are you simply curious about the “Seder” dinner that you’ve been invited to by one of your Jewish colleagues? Well, wonder no more, you amongst the hebraically-challenged! The sandwich guy is here to ‘splain all about the holiday of unleavened bread with his “Passover Primer”!
Passover, or the Feast of Unleavened Bread, is one of the three major pilgrimage festivals on the Jewish calendar. These festivals are so named in light of the historical pilgrimages Jews made from all over the world to the Temple in Jerusalem to celebrate these special holidays. Passover commemorates the Exodus, the part of biblical Jewish history where the Israelites were freed from generations of enslavement at the hands of the Egyptians to travel for forty years in the desert (yes, even back then, men refused to stop and ask for directions despite the protestations of their wives) on their way to the Land of Milk and Honey, otherwise known as Israel.
The holiday lasts eight days, during which Jews observe a special diet absent foods made with leavening agents. These dietary sacrifices were inspired by the unleavened bread, (or matzah) the Jews prepared in their haste to leave Egypt once the Pharoah had finally been convinced to grant them their freedom. The aforementioned haste was a result of said Pharaoh’s multiple renegings on similar promises. The Jews were taking no chances that the Egyptian leader might change his mind again, and anyone familiar with the parting and closing of the Red Sea allowing the Jews to flee their Egyptian pursuers who were swallowed up by the swift unparting of those same waters understands their haste.
The first two nights of Passover Jews conduct Seders, ritual dinners that retell the story of Passsover by incorporating song, prayer, stories, and food. Seder literally means “order” referring to the many parts of the meal that must be observed in order to tell the story of Passover properly. The dinner is participatory by everyone in attendance, from youngest to oldest, ensuring that all involved participate in the retelling of our past enslavement and by doing so on an annual basis become less likely to forget where we came from.
Passover is a time for all Jews to be grateful for how far we’ve come and what we’ve gained during that journey. But you don’t have to be Jewish to engage in that exercise. Just send flowers! After all, what better way to show your gratitude and humility than by sharing nature’s beauty with those you care about!
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On Monday April 18th, 2011 the historic Boston Marathon will envelop a 26.2 mile trail throughout Massachusetts. From, Hopkinton to Boston, thousands of runners will be cheered by thousands of fans along the course. The course will shut down towns and roads for almost the entire day.
Monday also marks the beginning of Passover at sundown. In the book of Exodus from the Bible: we learn that God helped the children of Israel escape slavery in Egypt by inflicting plagues upon the Egyptians before Pharaoh would release his Israelite slaves; the tenth and worst of the plagues was the slaughter of the first-born. The Israelites were instructed to mark the doorposts of their homes with the blood of a spring lamb and, upon seeing this, the spirit of the Lord passed over these homes, hence the term "passover,".
It is traditional for Jewish families to gather on the first night of Passover for a special dinner called a seder. The table is often set with the finest china and silverware and adorned with beautiful flowers to reflect the importance of the meal.
If you’re going to someone's home for seder, bring flowers. We often bring wine, but start your own tradition by arriving with fresh flowers or a beautiful orchid plant.
Exotic Flowers delivers many table centerpieces as well as flowering plants to Jewish homes on Monday. Most of our flower deliveries will go to towns like Sharon and Newton. The Boston Marathon will cut right through Newton and Brookline deterring many of our vehicles. Do not fret, most of our Passover deliveries are already scheduled for Sunday. We will be open and delivering flowers throughout Newton, Boston and Brookline on Sunday.