Because of the way that our calendar system(s) work, we have Easter coming early this year, so Lent actually begins this month, lining up with St. Valentine’s Day, President’s Day and Purim. We’ve got a lot to celebrate this year! And, while I’m not of the Jewish faith (although there is rumored to be Tribal blood running through my veins), Purim is a cool holiday, as it’s based on the book of Esther, and a great story in and of itself.
I’ve listed some reasons why these holidays, usually so overlooked in light of biggies like Christmas, Thanksgiving and Arbor Day, are to be opportunities for celebration.
- 1) The preparation for Easter, meaning Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday and the subsequent 40 days, is a ritual my family and I always appreciate. For Catholics, the putting on of ash to your forehead serves as a reminder that you’re body one day returns to dust (until the resurrection) keeping your life in perspective, particularly when you get upset by that guy who cut you off in traffic.
- 2) Lent! It literally means “a long time period.” During this time, pilgrims of Orthodox or Catholic backgrounds give up something to remind them of Christ’s sacrifice. It’s fun to sit around the table and discuss what you’re going to give up. It’s good for the soul to go without something for awhile, and hopefully realize that you didn’t need that thing anyway. Success is not how much you have, but how little you need.
- 3) For the 40 days of lent, in the Greek Orthodox culture, we greet each other (“even if ya can’t stand da guy,” as my dad would say with his Philly accent) with “Christos Anesti” (Christ is risen) and the person would answer “Alethos Anesti” (He’s risen indeed). Hard to beat that for a way to say hi! Also, the scene from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” when Ian Miller wishes his future Father In Law a happy “Christos Anesti” is still the best summary of our ethno centricity! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FukDxPYDbC8
- My wife and I usually go on medical mission trips during this time of the year to Egypt and Ethiopia. In both of these countries there are Coptic Christians who celebrate Easter with a special “Lent Diet.” In Egypt they make this bread that is a hint of heaven. In Ethiopia, they have special gluten free “injera” bread with these DELICIOUS vegetable additions. Another gift from the God of love.
- Pruning trees, watching the them bud and blossom, giving a sign of hope for the next year. Also, in this day of rush rush rush, there’s something refreshing about knowing you cannot hurry while pruning trees. Every clip is a careful clip of trimming back unnecessary wood in order to allow fresh fruit and flowers to come forth, and say, “We’re here to bless you.”
- I love playing music to get me into the mood for Easter during Lent. Classics by Bach like St. Matthew’s Passion or St. Johns Passion are gorgeously meditative pieces. More modern compositions by Arvo Part include “I Am the True Vine” which is a hint of heaven
- Valentine’s Day! It’s a great excuse for filling the day with romantic songs. Does it get better than John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman, Frank Sinatra’s Songs for Swingin’ Lovers or Joao Gilberto’s Amoroso?
- Decorating the office and home with Easter themes is a wonderful ritual. Icons, statues and Retablos from all the world that depict scenes of Christ’s last week. Gorgeous Peruvian dioramas, mystical Greek Icons, tacky statues and paintings, timeless Armenian tiles. We’ve got them all over the house and office, and they definitely liven things up.
- President’s Day is a good excuse for reading a book on one of our Presidents. While I’m not the greatest scholar on William Harrison or John Tyler, I can easily recommend biographies on Washington, Lincoln, Johnson, Reagan, Adams and Jefferson. One great thing about reading about our leaders is that it keeps today’s problems and events in proper perspective. Bottom line-nothing has changed!
- Even though I fight diabetes, it’s hard not to enjoy Jewish pastries like those delicious triangular Hamantaschen ditties, or even a nice kreplach. Besides, it’s just fun to say over and over again the word “kreplach.”
- CHRISTOS ANESTI!