Passover vs Easter: A showdown of Biblical Proportions
The springtime holidays are upon us. Shortly after the vernal equinox we have Easter Sunday and a few weeks later we have the beginning of Passover. Some years they even overlap. Like 50% of young Jews in America I come from an interfaith family so I’ve had the opportunity to participate in both holidays. About 15 years ago, I decided Easter was the dividing line between who was a Jew and who was a Christian so I stopped participating in it. This year I got an unusual number of Easter related invites and thought it might be time to reconsider, so I bring you the matchup of the anno domini to determine the superior holiday.
1.The big event: Fleeing Egypt in a Rain of Plagues vs Zombie Jesus
What exactly are we celebrating?
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Passover (or Pesach as we say in our Jewy language) is the retelling of the story of when Moses led the enslaved Jews out of Egypt and to the promise land. Try not to focus on the part where they get lost and wander around the desert for 40 years before getting to the promise land. You get to tell all about how God facilitated the escape from Egypt by throwing down ten plagues on the Egyptians, including raining frogs, locusts, and rivers of blood. The highlight of the power of Old Testament God in the story is the parting of the Red Sea, where the waters rise, the Jews run across and at the last minute the pharaoh’s army drowns in pursuit. It’s like a Hollywood script written for Oscar season… oh wait…*
For Christians, Easter is the defining moment of the faith. Either you believe Jesus was the son of God and rose from the dead or you may as well just pick another religion. It’s pretty well accepted that the Last Supper was a Passover seder. Jesus went a bit off script from the Haggadah but he was about to be betrayed and crucified so we can cut him a little slack. This all goes down on a Friday and some women head over to his grave on Sunday and find it empty. Jesus then stolls into town, body and all, and says to his disciples “Do you have anything here to eat?” and then “by the way, I’m the son of God and am you way into heaven”. *
Winner: Zombie Jesus. Freeing hundreds of thousands of people from slavery is cool and all, but I don’t think it gets much more baller than nonchalantly showing up for dinner with your friends three days after you died.
*As an athiest I would be remiss to pass over an opportunity to rile everybody up with a reminder that neither of the above stories actually happened.
2. The Main dish: Ham vs Brisket
Ham: gooood, Brisket: gooood. I’ll admit to being a terrible Jew who loves ham. Knowing everyone else will be eating porky goodness was the hardest part about giving up Easter. Ham is the reason I still show up at Christmas parties. Brisket on the other hand is a magical cut of beef, that gets covered in delicious sauce and cooked to the point it falls apart in a tender beefy mess.
Winner: Brisket by a narrow margin. Seriously, Bubbie’s brisket is one of the best parts of being Jewish.
3. Ritual Bread: Matzah vs Communion Wafer
One of the obligations of Catholics on Easter is to take communion. Jews are required to stop eating any wheat products (and a whole host of other grains) and only eat matzah during the week of Passover.
The communion wafer is a dry flavorless cracker, that upon the recitation of a prayer actually become the literal body of Christ. (Ask me sometime about the inopportune moment I said a bit too loudly at a Catholic wedding “mmm Jesus tastes good”)
Matzah is a dry flavorless cracker that stays a dry flavorless cracker, no matter how much you pray or what you cover it with for the entire eight days you have to suffer through it. It actually gets referred to as the Bread of our Affliction.
Winner: Matzah, at least there is some honesty about what you are getting into by eating it. Everybody knows the affliction is the week long constipation that comes with it.
4. The treats: Chocolate Bunnies vs Chocolate Covered Matzah
On one hand you have mediocre chocolate molded into the shape of a bunny. On the other you have mediocre chocolate covering a dry flavorless cracker.
Winner: Chocolate bunnies. If you are going to eat mediocre chocolate, leave the matzah out of it and at least you’ll have ears to bite off first.
5. The ritual: Seder vs Easter Vigil
For Passover you don’t actual have to go to synagogue. All the ritual takes place around a dinner table. There is the Seder plate that displays all the ritual food and the Haggadah, the book used to retell the story of the exodus from Egypt. The brilliant part of the Haggadah is there are some key elements (4 glasses of wine!) you have to do and say, but the rest is commentary. The draw back is you will get in epic fights over which Haggadah to use, the short Maxwell House one, your crunchy sister’s feminist one, the one your guest used growing up, or the longest one on earth your Uncle Saul insists is family tradition. I solved this at my Seders by compiling my own and making everyone else shut up.
I have to admit I have never actually attended an Easter church service but after falling into a Wikipedia black hole I settled on the Catholic Easter Vigil service to learn about. They’ve got fire, baptisms, singing, communion taking and all sorts of prayers recited. Apparently it goes on for hours and hours. Then I come across the part called the Liturgy of the Word which includes requiring the retelling of…
wait for it…
the Jewish exodus from Egypt!
Winner: while you get to eat and drink a lot at a Seder, you’ve got trained choirs at church and they are telling the SAME STORY at both. This one is a damn tie.
6. Imaginary friend: Easter bunny vs Elijah
At Easter a happy little bunny secretly hops into your house and yard, leaves baskets of candy and hides eggs all over your yard while the kids are sleeping.
At Passover you set an extra place at the table for the prophet Elijah and pour him a big glass of wine. When the kids leave the table to open the door for him, Elijah sneaks in, drinks all the wine and leaves before the kids can see.
Winner: Elijah. I’m taking this one from the parent’s perspective. At Easter you put in a lot of effort putting together baskets and hiding eggs and then end up stealing back the candy you already bought from your own kids. For Passover you pour an extra glass of wine and get to chug it. I don’t know why this was even up for debate.
7. Annoying leftover: Hardboiled Eggs vs Hardboiled Eggs
Both holidays produce an overabundance of hard boiled eggs. The dyed ones at Easter and the giant bowl of them from the Seder table at Passover. Then you stare at them for a week in your fridge trying to come up with new twists on egg salad.
Winner: Nobody. Nobody wants that much egg salad.
I don’t actually think either holiday is superior. They are both a mishmash of stories from the same book piled on top of each other with a heaping serving of pagan ritual. It doesn’t really matter because I’m skipping both and going to Europe this year anyway. At least I won’t have any left over hard boiled eggs.