Celebrating the holidays or holy days while practicing social distancing?
Is that an oxymoron?! NO! We are in unprecedented times. Many of us are living with new fears, new realities that tap into our feelings of isolation. To fortify ourselves and others, we need to dig deep and remember the practices that have helped us so much in the past – some of which are spiritual in nature. As many prepare to celebrate Passover and Easter, we have the opportunity to reflect on how our ancestors went through difficult times and how The Divine was faithful to them. This week we feature creative ways to prepare for and celebrate the holidays intergenerationally across different homes. Of course, we include several conversation starters that will lead you to heart-warming and inspirational Ah!-Ha! moments.
Why Bridge the Generations During The Holidays?
Arguably – there are three main reasons for Jews and Christians to connect with our elders and young people – especially during the holidays.
- It is inherent in these faith traditions to honor the oldest among us. Leviticus 19:32 which is found in both the Torah and the Bible says: “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.”
- Traditionally, the elders are the wisdom-keepers and share the traditions with those who are younger. This is still so critical. Research has shown that grandparents have a profound impact on the spiritual development of their grandchildren. Let us remember – as our circles of love incorporate more diverse cultures and faith traditions, it is important for everyone to be both teachers and learners – and be willing to adapt. For example, maybe a Russian daughter-in-law teaches her mother-in-law how to dye eggs in her tradition or maybe she asks her mother-in-law to learn how to prepare a seder.!
- We need one another. Our elders often provide comfort and a sense of “home”. And our youth – infuse us with joy and hope. Our intergenerational relationships provide opportunities to learn from our past as we prepare for our future all the while experiencing the gift of each day. I hope that each of us will make a concerted effort to reach out to and connect the oldest and youngest in our midst especially during these holidays.
Holidays and Holy Days
One of my favorite things in life is finding commonalities with people who are “different”. This year, as Jews and Christians, we have the gift of celebrating our religious holidays during the same time period. Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday on April 5 leading up to Easter on Sunday, April 12. Passover starts on Wednesday, April 8. For me, The Holy Triduum – Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday are my favorite days of the year. In these three celebrations, we experience the spectrum of life. We share meals and serve one another on Holy Thursday.. We experience death of our loved ones and fear of our own death on Good Friday. The hope of new life and rebirth on Easter Sunday. The “first” holy triduum coincided with the Jewish celebration of Passover. Two books that have helped me understand and appreciate our religious similarities and differences are Have A Little Faith: A True Story by Mitch Albom and The Faith Club: A Muslim, A Christian, A Jew– Three Women Search for Understanding by Ranya Idliby, Suzanne Oliver and Priscilla Warner. Perhaps part of the silver lining of all of this is that we are being more mindful of that which unites us instead of what divides us – politically and we have the power to do the same religiously.
“Necessity is the mother of invention”
That statement dates back to Plato. We need it now! Holidays are usually a time to gather with those in our circle of love, through traditions, rituals, and prayers that bring us comfort and meaning as well as mark our year. Since we can’t gather in person, we have the necessity to get creative and to invent new ways to honor, celebrate and unite. Thankfully, we have technology to help us. We can combine that with more unscheduled time and also more children around. Youth are some of the most creative, inventive minds we have! So necessity + technology + time + children = creative holiday solutions!
Here a few ideas:
- Connect to create a plan! What are the components of your celebration and how can you maintain them – or share across homes. For example, Myrna is sending a copy of the Haggadah to her family members and they will Zoom to pray and enjoy a meal together.
- Use books! Consider doing a “book club” with those in your circle of love using one of the chapter books above. With little ones, read a picture book online or send them a favorite book. My life-long favorite Easter children’s book is The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes as told to Jennifer by DuBose Heyward. Watch (or read) here. Do you see why I have loved this as a child and the impact it has had on me? Also, originally published in 1939, consider what the author has to say about gender, race and age. Myrna S. suggests sending Haggadah booklets to her loved ones and then they will connect online to share the Passover readings.
- Send packages to your loved ones and/or to those who need them more! Roseann shares that she has ordered a honey-baked ham for her emerging adult who can’t get home for Easter. My family is donating to those in need – because of COVID-19 but also remembering those who are hungry every day, every year with donations of holiday-inspired animals through Heifer International.
- Offer virtual cooking lessons to make favorite holiday dishes. This is a perfect time to record and transmit family recipes. Maybe use the opportunity to begin creating a family recipe booklet!
Make sure that you fill your thoughts and conversations with uplifting topics so as to take the focus of the virus, as much as possible. Here are a few suggestions:
- If you could invite anyone to this holiday dinner, who would it be? If you could invite anyone from another time and place, who would it be and why?
- When you were little, how did you celebrate this holiday? What has stayed the same and what is different between then and last year?
- What does this holiday mean to you? What does it say to you as our world is suffering from this COVID-19 pandemic?
- What is your sweetest OR saddest funniest OR most poignant holiday memory?
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Holidays of Hope and Protection In the Midst of Disaster
A decree that all first-born, male babies be killed. Can you imagine? A beloved and long-awaited spiritual leader unjustly murdered. Thousands of people dying daily and frontline workers who don’t have the protective gear they need. Horror! Yesterday and today. And yet – the Judeo-Christian holidays remind us that our Divine is with us in these most difficult days and that new life will come. We have the opportunity to pray, to remember, to connect, to comfort and to do so creatively – that we might be instruments of God’s healing love and grace in this world – especially during these holy and troubling days.
A Final Blessing
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit one of my dear mentors, Dr. Edgar Klugman. During our conversation, we ended up praying this blessing together – we, man and woman; we, who are 94 and 49 years of age; we: Jew and Christian. we, who speak Hebrew, Italian and English; we, who have spent a lifetime uniting generations and teaching interdependence, peace and love; We, draw on the prayer in both of our Holy Books. This is my prayer for you and those in your circle of love today, during these holy days and every day.
“The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”
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