At our house, we call it Eastover.
Matzo balls and colored eggs, yarmulkes and flowered bonnets, gefilte fish and HoneyBaked hams.
No identity crises here. We know who we are and where we came from, but that doesn't mean we can't celebrate each other's values and beliefs together.
So, welcome to the party. For dual-faith families (Jewish and Presbyterian, in our case), it begins Friday--a three-day, cross-cultural embrace of food, family and ritual.
With Easter and Passover coming together this year in joyful confluence, we seize the opportunity to make the most of our similarities.
And we invoke the prayers of our forefathers and mothers to get through it all with a minimum of omigod-two-major-holidays-in-one-weekend stress. . . .
If someone spills the Manischewitz on the white lace tablecloth Friday night, does it really matter if the stain is still there Sunday morning?
If every piece of fancy crystal doesn't make it through the Seder, would it be a sin to use jelly glasses for Easter dinner?
Is it ever appropriate to warm the Passover brisket in the same oven with the Easter ham? Would they both fit?
Compared to the truly cosmic questions posed by these formidable holy days, such concerns may seem trivial, but for those of us anxious to present both holidays in perfect social harmony, this is serious.
When it comes to Eastover protocol, we are wandering in the wilderness with few role models to guide us. But guides, we need. Both Easter and Passover are ritualistic, tradition-driven, labor-intensive holidays with all sorts of rules regarding the boning of fish, painting of eggs and folding of linens.
"And don't forget--this is all women's work, for the most part," reminds one already-weary New York mother. "After this weekend, all bosses should give women Monday off so they can go get massages."
I enjoy massages as much as anybody, but I probably won't deserve one this year.
For our Passover--a holiday I knew nothing about until I was married--I have carefully reduced my personal involvement to essentially setting the table.
I generously "allow" my Jewish husband to do all the work.
Clearly, this was not his intent when he bought me my first Jewish cookbook. "Dear Pamela," read his desperate inscription, "Please God we should eat everything described in this book."
Thirteen years later, I can make chopped liver.
This may not sound like much, but as the partner in charge of all Christian holidays, I contribute in other important ways.
For example, I have never once complained about standing in line at the HoneyBaked ham store.
My friend Mary Schoen, on the other hand, does it all.
She and her husband Marty can create any number of ethnically correct meals in their Pasadena kitchen. And no matter what the holiday, they are totally unflappable.
In contrast to a San Francisco family we know, where dual holiday preparations can begin with Prozac and relaxation tapes, the Schoens seem to truly enjoy the events.
"What's to worry about? It's only food," shrugs Marty, who once donned a full-body white fur suit and black Ray-Bans to play the Easter Bunny at a school egg hunt.
Mary was born in Cuba and grew up Catholic. Marty was born in the Wilshire District and grew up Jewish.
"We call ourselves 'Cub-ish,' " says Mary.
Last Saturday, Mary began her preparations for the holidays by sitting down at the dining room table with the Seder issue of Martha Stewart Living.
Stewart, famous arbiter of food fashion, is Catholic. But, as the beneficiary of the ancient Passover tradition of inviting a stranger to the table, Stewart recently attended an elaborate three-generation Seder in Manhattan.
With Stewart's inspiration and the Miller family of Manhattan's three generations of Passover recipes, the magazine's April issue has everything you need for "a meal as metaphor."
Among all the metaphors, Mary Schoen found just what she was looking for--directions for baking a flourless chocolate cake. Most Passover foods are steeped in symbolism. Matzo, an unleavened bread, recalls the rush with which the Israelites made their exodus from Egypt. With the Pharaoh's soldiers hot on their heels, who could wait for bread (or chocolate cake) to rise?
As the Schoens' 7-year-old son, Julian, separates the eggs for Mary's gourmet dessert, his 17-month-old sister Rosalind helps Dad eject a half-dozen red-and-blue Jell-O Jigglers from their egg cases.
"Yuck," says Marty.
"Yummmmm," says Julian as he squishes one of the gelatinous orbs into his sister's smiling face. "Uh oh," says little Rosie, as the treat slides off her tongue on to the floor.
"Was that supposed to be for dinner?" asks Julian.
"Not anymore," I said.
Despite the liturgical inconsistencies, Easter and Passover have much to offer scattered families of the '90s beyond a bountiful meal.
As festivals of freedom and rebirth, both speak to common truths and share universal themes of courage and triumph, sacrifice and hope.
These holidays truly feed the soul--whether it's gefilte fish or jelly beans.