When I was a kid, my parents encouraged me to make Easter eggs. But I take my religion more seriously than they do. To me, Easter eggs are pagan. They have nothing to do with any of Jesus' qualities. How do I tell my kids, "No Easter eggs," without being a killjoy?
--T.R., Woodstock, N.Y.
With the whole culture around you screaming, "Easter eggs!" just as it yells "Xmas trees!" in December, you might be fighting a losing battle. Or at least a battle that will create some bad parent-kid feelings. But keep up the fight. What's at stake isn't just trees and eggs, but your principles. Before eggs became so closely associated with Easter, Romans, Gauls, Chinese, Egyptians, and Persians used eggs during their rite-of-spring festivals. Eggs represented the earth's rebirth: winter was over, and the earth was bursting forth with life--just as eggs do.
With the advent of Christianity, eggs' symbolism changed from representing nature's rebirth to representing humanity's rebirth. Many Christians likened the egg to the tomb from which Christ rose. In fact, one Polish legend says that Mary wept as she gave eggs to some soldiers at the cross. As she asked them to be less cruel, her tears fell on the eggs, spotting them with dots of color. Another legend says that when Mary arrived at Jesus' tomb to anoint his body, the eggs she had brought for a snack became a rainbow of colors.
But no matter what the legends say, and as pretty and festive as a well-dyed egg might be, you're right--Easter eggs say nothing about what type of person Jesus was or what his ministry meant for humanity. Maybe you can compromise: while you're dyeing eggs with your kids, you can tell them all what Jesus means to you and what he can mean to them.
I'm Jewish but know very little about my own faith. During almost every festive Jewish holiday, an Orthodox neighbor greets me with "Chag samayach." I have no idea what he's saying or how I should respond.
--B.J., Richmond, Va.
Your neighbor is not testing your knowledge of Hebrew. He's just wishing you a "happy holiday." There are many ways to respond. You can say--with a smile--the same thing. Or you can thank him--in English, or in Hebrew: "Todah rabah." Or you can say, "Happy _________," and fill in the blank with the holiday currently being celebrated--say, Passover, Purim, or Chanukah.
Next time there's a holiday, you might even try beating him to the punch. Say "Chag samayach" before he has a chance to say it to you--and watch his reaction. He'll probably think that after the times he has said it to you, he has finally strengthened your Jewish identity.