Z Blog: Co-opting the pagans
As I was setting up cups of egg dye for my nephew and a friend last Sunday morning, I found myself frustrated about all the Easter in the air.
I thought, my Jewish grandfather didn’t flee Czarist slaughter, Russian anti-Semitism and a dead-end Ukrainian village so I could waste my cultural energy staining eggshells in stinky pools of vinegar.
I imagine my relatives beyond the pale didn’t have eggs to spare on such frivolity. I should be memorizing the months of the Hebrew calendar or something like that, even though that sort of knowledge is really only useful for solving the New York Times crossword puzzle.
Then I thought about my grandfather’s forthcoming great grandchild ” my first child, due in mid-May ” and whether he or she will besmirch our heritage by chasing some sweaty fool in a bunny suit around the park in Edwards, instead of plotting latitude and longitude to find the location of that village that was stomped into oblivion. He or she should obsess about how there’s no real ‘old country’ for many American Jews.
And what about Christmas? Will my child snub his nose at his ancestors and their fight for freedom by demanding I murder a tree and stick it in the living room? Will they insist on hanging skiing grizzly bear ornaments and ceramic marshmallow men from the branches?
He or she probably will. Why? Because it’s fun. And also because the Jewish holidays I grew up ‘celebrating’ ” the fasting, the atoning, the plagues ” just can’t compete with all the presents and tree-trimming and creme-filled chocolate eggs.
I know I’m comparing hallowed religious ritual with co-opted pagan parties, and maybe that’s not fair to my culture. But this is not a theological discussion. I’m not going to try and dissect scripture or go testament-to-testament over which doctrine is the “right one.”
All I know is some people do a better job garnishing the high holy days. All I know is Christians have done a better job marketing their holidays, which is ironic.
On the holiest Jewish Holiday, Yom Kippur, a Jew is supposed to fast and remember the dead. The holiest Christian holiday is Christmas. You build snowmen and get presents.
Couldn’t we at least have some kind of Yom Kippur parade? Couldn’t we atone for our sins just as effectively riding floats that look like flowery lumps of gefilte fish? Couldn’t we hide matzah balls in the backyard and let the kids find them?
And what about Easter? I’d rather run around in the sunshine looking for prizes than sit through a Passover service that, depending on how observant you are, can last 30 minutes to three hours before you get to eat.
If Easter gets a bunny, Passover could at least have a penguin or a happy platypus that hides cookies. Or, since we’re remembering slavery in Egypt, an uncle could dress up as a pharaoh and the children could throw bagels at him.
During that Passover prayer service you talk about pools of blood, vermin, swarms of frogs and the slaying of the first born, and then, after dinner, you get to wait for the messiah to come and for the world to end.
I’ll take an easter-egg hunt, even if it’s snowing.