Here at FableVision we pride ourselves on being a great mix of talents and personalities working together to reach all learners through media, storytelling and technology. Our staff has a great mix of cultures and traditions; we are lucky to have team members with ancestry from countries like Ukraine, Bulgaria, Greece, Canada, Italy, Poland, and Japan. As Easter and Passover approach, we asked some FableVisionaries to share some of their holiday traditions. It was amazing to see just how varied our backgrounds are.
Passover and Easter celebrations, in a nutshell, are stories that matter and stories that move. These stories have room for interpretation and are rich with traditions and rituals. The differences in which our cultures celebrate and acknowledge these holidays are some of the creative ways we connect the dots between cultures:
Didi: "Bulgarian Easter is a family holiday that honors old traditions, and unlike other holidays, has mostly resisted commercialization. When I was a kid, I remember my mother and grandmother spending a whole day baking the sweet Easter bread-kozunak, my sister and I helping out with the laborious kneading. Every family had their own variation on the bread, the recipe passed down from mother to daughter and sometimes a closely guarded secret.
While the bread was baking, we'd dye the eggs, with a combination of contemporary dyes and traditional methods like onion skin, wax and spring blossoms. The colors of Bulgarian Easter are deep, rich, natural colors like red, orange, yellow and green. Unlike the faint pastel colors, they are saturated and symbolize strength and vitality. We kids would have a few eggs reserved for our own creative ideas - crayons, paints, glitter... I even used nail polish once!
On Easter morning, we would eat the bread for breakfast with Nutella spread on it, and have the Easter Egg Fight - everybody grabs a colorful egg and cracks somebody else's egg with it, the survivor then hits somebody else's surviving egg and so on until only one intact egg is left. The victor egg is kept around until next Easter, at which point it is ceremonially broken, and if it hasn't rotten, then the year will be good! (eggs have a sneaky way of neatly drying out into a little ball... so the year is always good!) After the egg fight, we'd take a plate of Easter bread and dyed eggs to every neighbor, who would in turn give us some of theirs, so we can all try each other's bread recipes and egg dying techniques. Easter was among my favorite times of the year, when we'd all come together to create beautiful and delicious things that we would then share with our neighbors. I truly miss that spirit of the holiday, but try to keep up my side of it every year by baking my mother's bread recipe and dying brightly colored eggs the way grandma taught me, and then sharing them with my friends".
Margarita: "In Greece we prepare the traditional Easter bread- tsoureki and we dye the eggs red (red is the color of life as well as a representation of the blood of Christ). However, it's some of our other traditions and rituals that set us apart and make the holiday truly fun and unique.
For us, Holy Friday is a day of mourning, not of work (including cooking). Flags are hung at half-mast and church bells ring all day in a slow mournful tone.
Then on Saturday, the celebratory mood starts with the arrival of the Eternal Flame by a military jet. It is distributed to waiting Priests who carry it to their local churches. This event is always televised and everyone awaits it!
Another unique tradition in Greece takes place at the end of the Saturday midnight services. As soon as "Christos Anesti" (Christ has Risen) is called out, church bells begin to ring non-stop, ships in ports all over Greece sound their horns, floodlights are lit on large buildings, and great and small displays of fireworks and noisemakers are set off. This really kicks off the celebrations for Easter Sunday.
On Easter Sunday, the customary main attraction of the holiday is the whole roasted lamb or goat, to represent the Lamb of God. The spits are set to work, and grills are fired up. Ovens are filled with traditional accompaniments and all the trimmings. Great Greek wines, ouzo, and other drinks flow freely, and preparations for the meal turn into festive celebrations even before the eating begins".
Fiana: "In Ukraine, Easter was always one of my favorite favorite holidays. Some of the traditional rituals include the whole town going to the Church on Sunday night with a prepared basket of Easter Breads and eggs for the priest to bless. One of my favorite memories about this particular ritual was the 'Krestiniy Khod' 'Christ's Walk'- it is a walk around the church with burning red candles and prayer. Then the priest shouts 'Christ is risen' - and all the people answer - 'Indeed risen!'
Like many European regions we have a traditional Easter cake-Paskha. It is usually baked like a pyramid, which symbolizes the Tomb of Christ and is decorated in colorful icing, raisins or sprinkles and optional religious symbols. We also paint eggs into different colors and designs. Then on Sunday we exchange the eggs and the Easter cakes with our family and neighbors. My town used to take the egg painting tradition further and decorate empty egg shells and hang them from the trees for the whole town to see. This was a beautiful sight because the town had an opportunity to bond.
Another tradition that is popular in my town during the Easter celebration is tying the day of remembrance of our friends and neighbors into the celebration. Traditionally on Saturday everyone made their way to the cemetery and the whole family ‘shares’ the Easter meal. The priest from the Church makes his rounds to bless and visit with the families at the gravestones. Candy and the Paskha are left on the gravestones and kids go around collecting them as a sign of their acknowledgement and respect for the dead.
Although there was a thick religious influence to this day, to me the holiday was aways a strong emphasis on community, respect and welcome spring".
Renee: My parents used to leave a trail of milk chocolate eggs from my bedroom to the back door, leading me to believe that the Easter Bunny was in my room while I was sleeping...it was TERRIFYING!
Naomi: "One of my favorite Passover traditions is called Bdekat Chametz, which translates to 'Searching for Unleavend Bread' (Jews are commanded to not eat chametzfor the duration of the Passover holiday). Bdekat Chametz is a ritual that involves a feather, a flashlight and oftentimes cheerios (little bits of chametz) hidden around the house. The child (or grown-up child) in the house goes around the house with the flashlight and the feather and collects all the "remaining" pieces of chametz in the house. These pieces are then ritually burned the next morning, making the house (at least) ritually free of chametz.
I always remember the search being very fun as a kid and now that I have a kid, it was very fun to do this with her (here's a fun video of Sylvia searching for chametz) But for me, the searching for chametz has always had greater meaning. Sure, we're looking for little breadcrumbs, but I like to think of chametz as things that are stuck in our lives that we need to be freed of. Things like getting upset about unimportant things, excessive worry, self-doubt. I like to think of cleaning out chametz as looking inward at the things we want to clean out of the crevices in our mind, leaving us all more free by the next morning".