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Sharing Traditions: of Food, Freedom & Passover

Sharing Traditions: of Food, Freedom & Passover

We so often think of holidays as being about repeating the traditions we already know, but sometimes there is just as much meaning in following the ones we don't.

I've been thinking about that a lot this week as we call on our community to share your recipes, tips, tricks, resources and support for Easter and Passover. 

In fact, because they are only vicariously my own, especially the Passover ones.

You see, I grew up in an "Easter household", but my step-father's childhood traditions were of those of Passover in a kosher household. Traditions that revolve around food - as a feast to mark the Jews' freedom from Egypt but also as a symbol of that very freedom itself.

Growing up, Passover seder traditions were like cultural bookmarks that I experienced and observed, yet lacked the full cultural context to properly absorb as my own. They aren't quite the comforting scarves of traditions more organic to my own childhood home, like the ones I described in my Easter post. But as I grow older, and as my stepdad does, I see these traditions now as windows backwards into the past - into his past - and sideways into families that are otherwise very much like my own.

So this week it has been a gift for me to see the Passover recipes our community has shared, and it has inspired me to learn more about the roots of this rich cultural tradition, opening those windows a little wider. As I have done so, I have been struck by the profoundness of food in the  Passover traditions as a symbol of freedom - a connection that never made so much sense to me as a child as it does now that I run a household full of "custom eaters" struggling with food allergies, histamine intolerance, mast cell disorders and more.  After all, as hard as we try to keep a positive spin on it, for my kids and myself food is intertwined every day with a kind of freedom lost - can't eat this, must avoid that.

But Passover celebrates the intersection of "food" and "freedom" as so much more. In Passover traditions, this connection is not about one person's freedom to eat the foods that they choose, it's about how food can stand in as a symbol for the pain of an entire nation losing its freedom, and its joy in regaining it. It's bitter herbs to remember the bitterness of slavery - but dipped in a bit of sweet apple or date relish to remind us that even in difficult times there is a little of sweetness to be found. It's vegetables dipped in salt water representing tears for the pain of slavery - and unleavened Matzah bread because freedom came so fast that there wasn't time to wait for the bread to rise before rushing towards it. It's wine - four whole glasses of it - to remind us of the luxury of leisure and the importance of taking time to celebrate and experience joy.

Perhaps it is no coincidence to freedible's missions of inclusion and tolerance that I grew up in this "blended" family, straddling religious traditions and blurring cultural lines. I am richer because of our mismatches and have always felt blessed to be not only welcomed by that side of my family but celebrated for my differences. In fact, toasting to those cultural fault lines with my cousins "from the other side" are some of my richest memories.

I am so pleased this week to see our community come together to do the same. By sharing recipes and family stories, we open windows into our own cultural traditions for others to discover - just as we do with our different food needs here on freedible all year round. 

So please join in the conversation - leave me a comment here or add a blog post on freedible to share your own traditions of food, Passover, Easter - and how your custom diet runs through it all.

And happy holidays to you and your family, however you may celebrate them.

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