For the first time in three decades, Passover and the Easter Triduum, along with Ramadan, occur together this weekend. Each of these three Abrahamic religious celebrations begins with a ritual meal.
Jews observe Passover as the holiday of deliverance when Moses led the Israelites out of 430 years of Egyptian slavery, as recounted in Exodus 12 . At the center is the Seder celebrated in Jewish homes, and at the center of the table is the traditional Seder plate with specific and symbolical foods arranged around it: a shankbone (for the sacrificed lamb); a hard-boiled egg (life and birth); bitter herbs like horseradish (the bitterness of slavery); a sweet paste called charoset (the mortar in the pyramids); and a leafy green like parsley (hope). On a side plate lie matzos, unleavened bread.
THE LAST SUPPER
On Maundy Thursday night, the night before Jesus was crucified, Christians commemorate The Last Supper, at which He instituted the sacrament of Holy Eucharist. All four Gospels relate that The Last Supper took place in the week of Passover, several days after Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and shortly before Jesus was crucified that week. The meal was based on the traditional Jewish Passover seder that included the ritual foods listed above. For a detailed account, see the canonical gospels, especially the Gospel of Luke 22:7-22.
John’s Gospel alone recounts the added ritual of foot washing, as depicted here:
The next day, Good Friday, commemorates the Crucifixion of Jesus. Thus, it is a day of fasting. Traditionally, Hot Cross Buns are served at teatime (mid-afternoon) to break the fast and offer physical sustenance before a light supper that night.
These buns are simple yeast rolls with a few currants or raisins baked in the dough. A cross shape is cut into the top before baking. After the buns have cooled, some bakers add an orange glaze and top with an icing cross, as shown above.
Islam’s Holy Month of Ramadan began on April 1 this year. It continues to May 1 and 2. Ramadan is one of the five main pillars of the Islam faith and meant as a time of reflection and prayer. It commemorates the first revelation of Islam’s founder and main prophet, Muhammad. Muslims fast between sunrise and sundown for 30 days, or from one crescent moon sighting to the next.
Typically, each day of fasting begins with a predawn meal, suhur, and ends after sunset with a date and glass of water. Then, the post-sunset meal, iftar, is eaten together with family or with the broader Muslim community in a communal setting.
Muslims follow the end of Ramadan with Eid al-Fitr, a holiday full of feasting and merriment.
At Tevye sings in Fiddler on the Roof, “It’s tradition!”