This year, I was invited to celebrate Passover with some of my Jewish friends here in China. I was warned that it would be different. I was warned that I would have to participate in readings. And I voluntarily decided to give it a shot. Although I am not a religious person, I am always intrigued by the cultural diversities of others, including their religious celebrations.
I arrived shortly after 6 and just spent time socializing. It was nice to spend time with these friends, as I rarely get a chance to do so. Once everyone had arrived, we could begin. The food on the table was explained and everyone had a haggadah at their place setting. This is the Jewish book about Pesach (Passover). It was in Hebrew and in English. It took me a few minutes to get used to going from right to left while following along i the pages. We went around the table, taking turns reading from the book. Those from Israel read in Hebrew, while those of us from other areas (USA, Italy, and China) read in English. We toasted with wine. We ate potatoes in salt water. We read some more. We did the shortened version. Then, we started the meal.
There was roasted chicken, roasted duck and vegetables, stuffed peppers, eggplant, fish, soup, and matzah. Then, when we couldn't eat anymore, we had dessert and espressos! Most of the conversations were in Hebrew, yet I never felt out of place. It didn't seem unnatural to me, like other languages might make me feel. I hear it often from some of my students and their parents, so maybe that is why. All I know is that I had a wonderful time with friends, celebrating a very special holiday for them.
I won't pretend that I felt the religious aspect of it. I didn't. I enjoyed the reading, listening to them sing, and the company. I just am not a religious person myself. I believe in something. I am just not always 100% sure what that something is. I know I trust in myself and in doing right by others. I believe in Karma. I believe in respecting the Earth and all her children. But, other than that, not sure. And I am ok with that. I enjoy learning about new things from my friends and will always keep an open mind. And luckily, with this group, it's good to keep an empty stomach - they are amazing cooks!! :)
For those of you celebrating, Happy Passover.