Holiday traditions. Basically every family has them, whether it’s using grandma’s pumpkin pie recipe during Thanksgiving, having an uncle dress up like Santa during Christmas, or hiding Easter eggs when that Sunday roles around.
And as kids, we normally don’t put much thought into these so-called “traditions” and question why we do what we do every year. We just go through the rehearsed motions and assume when someone talks about Thanksgiving dinner it includes our grandmother’s pie. The older we get, the more obvious it is that every family, in fact, doesn’t celebrate on Dec. 25 or other such days in the same manner. But, for me, waking up this past Christmas and not finding a stocking, presents under the tree, or monkey bread cooking in the oven put a little cloud over my holiday. It might also have been the fact that I was 5,000 miles away from home without my family on a day that normally was spent solely with them. Anyway, I hope you are catching on to where I’m going with this “holiday tradition” angle since Easter was about a week ago. We exchange students have a saying about experiencing the holiday traditions abroad: “It’s not good, not bad, just different.” And this past Easter was quite different.
I assumed that since Italy is, in majority, a Catholic country I would be joining the masses swinging palms, kissing the cross and trying to stay awake during the three-hour-long Easter Vigil. But none of these events happened for me. On Palm Sunday I was in Palermo and was slightly terrified to venture out by myself to go to Church. It didn’t help that out hotel was located by “Piazzetta delle Vittime”—“The Plaza of Victims.” No joke. As for the Holy Triduum, I have less of an excuse. In fact, I just didn’t go. Maybe I can blame part of it on having other plans or not knowing the times of the Masses, but in all honesty I just didn’t put much effort into it.
And then Easter Sunday I woke up feeling as though, in fact, it wasn’t Easter. Usually, I’ve celebrated this holiday going to the Easter Vigil with my family, coming home at midnight, and eating lamb cake (cake in the shape of a lamb — not a lamb-flavored cake — just so you’re not concerned) and other sweets we’d given up for Lent. Before now, I don’t think I realized how big a role the “Catholic Easter” played in making Easter, Easter. Because I can honestly tell you that the 24th of April felt just like any other day (besides the fact that we stepped into Church for 45 minutes before leaving for a lunch reservation).
Then I started to think about other holiday traditions my family and I share, and I discovered a large part of them involve the Church (might have something to do with my dad’s occupation). I’ve gotten to the point that if I don’t go to Christmas Eve Mass or Palm Sunday Mass I feel as though the holiday isn’t approaching. So, congratulations Mom and Dad. Your “take the kids to Church even if they complain and give you a teenage rebellious attitude” plan worked. I was actually upset that I left Mass early, where as last year I probably would have sprinted away with glee.
I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: you never really appreciate what you have until it’s gone. This applies, obviously to people, but also to religion. We, as Catholics, definitely take for granted our ability to worship as we please. And as kids we assume that our parents will always take us when we need to go. But, I’ll tell you now, you don’t really understand your religion until you have to work for it. You don’t appreciate it until you experience a time without it.
Hope you all had a blessed holiday and are enjoying the Easter season!
Your sister in Christ,