I grew up in a traditional conservative Jewish home. Both my parents are Jewish. I was raised Jewish. I observed all the Jewish holidays, went to Sunday School and Hebrew school and went to my grandparents for all the traditional Jewish holidays like Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Hanukkah, and Passover.
My family attended services regularly and I knew all the common Jewish rituals. I was brought up Jewish and had a good life, it was all I knew and I was fine with it. I didn’t care about Christmas versus Hanukkah as we had more days to get presents. There was only one thing that bothered me and it happened every spring.
No, I’m not talking about spring cleaning, I am fine with giving the house a good scrub. The one thing that drove me crazy was cleaning the house for Passover. I didn’t get it. I knew why you cleaned the house – to get the Chametz out but I didn’t understand why. I hated watching my mom clean out the cupboards for Passover. I didn’t want any part of it. I thought that if they had the option back then to eat leaven food they would have.
As a kid I was mad to give up the foods I loved to eat, only to be left with Matzah for an entire week. What made it worse was going to school over Passover. I always had to explain why I had matzah while everyone else was eating their normal sandwiches. I was embarrassed. I wanted to be like everyone else and eat my normal peanut butter sandwiches.
As I got a little older I became aware of a holiday that tends to fall right around the time of Passover. My friends would bring in chocolate bunnies and jellybeans while I was left to eat matzah and I had no clue why. I wanted to celebrate Easter, go on egg hunts, and eat jellybeans. Passover went on the back burner as I became tempted with Easter.
One day my neighborhood friend offered me a piece of her chocolate egg, I think it was a Cadbury egg. I always saw them at the store and I really wanted to try it but it was Passover and I wasn’t allowed. I didn’t know what to do, I could try it and not tell anyone, no one would know but me. I really wanted to celebrate this holiday called Easter, but not for the holiday, for the food.
I was jealous of my neighbor who got to eat candy and decorate eggs while I had to sit down for long seders and eat matzah. I questioned my mom every chance I got. And stared at the forbidden chametz in the basement. I had a count down for the end of Passover and was thrilled when it was over so I could be normal again.
This became a daily struggle in my life. My mom never caved and I accepted that I was different and would never get to decorate eggs or eat Easter candy.
I will never really know why I cared so much about this holiday called Easter. I guess it was the appeal of bunnies and jellybeans that drew me in. As I grew up I started to realize that it wasn’t about the candy, I can have candy whenever I wanted to. The struggle I have come to realize was me being different than everyone else I was around. When I was with my family or at Temple I was fine but being one of the only Jewish kids in my class and neighborhood embarrassed me. I wanted to be like the norm. I wanted to fit in with the rest of the kids. I didn’t like being different from everyone else and it took me a long time to realize that it is okay to be different.
Today I am a mom of 4 happy and healthy kids. My husband’s side isn’t Jewish but my husband is. We are raising our family Jewish and go to a great synagogue that my kids aren’t afraid to be who they are. My kids are happy to be Jewish and although it was hard for me when I was their age, they love the holidays. My oldest daughter loves to recite the 4 questions and all my kids enjoy looking for the afikomen.
In past years we have gone to my husband’s parents house to do Easter things like decorate eggs and hunt for them. But to be perfectly honest the kids don’t care about these things. The only reason they go is to be with the family.
It has taken me 30-plus years to realize that it doesn’t have to be Matzah vs Jellybeans. The holidays are about being with the family and enjoying yourself. I no longer yearn to celebrate Easter and now celebrate who I am as an individual.