Benefits of Not Being A Traditional Christian
By Ray Hanania — My parents were Greek Orthodox, a religion that later split in one of those typically Mediterranean emotion-filled arguments into the “Antiochian” Orthodox Church. While I try to avoid the religious confusion of being a Christian, there were many benefits of being in a “minority” sect. This past Sunday was Easter for most Western Christians. But Orthodox Easter isn’t until April 27.
It’s good and bad. Twice, I deal with a guilty conscience over what to eat on “Good Friday.”I also get to color two sets of hard-boiled eggs. The first this week in multi-colors with rabbit images — I have a 7-year-old son and even though he is being raised Jewish, like his mother, you still engage in the superficial aspects of Christian religious holidays.
The second set next month will feature eggs colored deep purple to reflect the “passion” of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, which is what Easter is supposed to symbolize.
Western Easter, like most Western holidays, is too commercialized. It’s about “buying,” not praying.
But, by the time we get to Orthodox Easter, the Orthodox are enjoying the post-Western Easter items selling at half price. Not missed in my household is the true meaning of Easter — egg fights.
My uncle Farid always suckered me into using the fat end of the egg. He always won.
We had purple egg shells all over the place after those Easter egg battles.
(The Orthodox come from a region of the world where “battles” is the norm and egg fighting is an Olympic tradition.)
Of course, the other benefit is that I can buy those marshmallow “Peeps” at discounted prices, too. Who buys all that unsold Easter stuff after Western Easter? Us Orthodox Christians.
Although my parents were Orthodox, when I was young in the ’60s, there were no Orthodox Churches on Chicago’s Southeast Side. My dad was from Jerusalem and my mom was from Bethlehem. The real one. They were very religious, so we had to go to a church.
We went to the Baptist Church, but they were always screaming, yelling and hitting each other’s foreheads. When the Baptist minister made a pass at Mom, Dad sought sanctuary at the Catholic Church, until the priest started hitting on me.
They enrolled me in the Protestant Church. I was “confirmed” Lutheran. One thing about Protestants, they’re too busy fighting among themselves — there are four sects — and they are too busy to notice the olive-skinned Arabs who were learning to be WASPs.
Still, Easter was a drama at the Hanania household on south Luella Avenue back in the ’60s. Mom wore a huge colorful bonnet. Dad made me dress in a suit with a crisp white shirt, like his own. We had matching snap-on ties.
The best part of Easter was the food.
My mom made food like she was cooking for an army. And we had so many relatives, the house looked like an INS processing center.
Easter dinner consisted of grape leaves and squash stuffed with rice and diced lamb, tabouli salad and hummus dip soaked in olive oil. And we also had a huge lamb on a bed of rice and pine nuts.
Then, weeks later, we’d do it all over again.
As my dad always used to say in his second round of toasting and prayers, “I love this country. Where else in the world can you celebrate a holiday twice in the same year?”