Easter and Passover Different

by Judith Fein

I live in Santa Fe, the City Different.  It’s a town with a tap dancing rabbi, a stock broker who runs the community theatre, a real estate broker who moonlights by teaching cooking classes, legions of natives who protect the prairie dogs with their lives, a car that drives around with a suitcase on the roof to remind people that they have emotional baggage, tricked out lowriders, a Jewish mariachi, dead trees turned into sculptures of archangels, a judge who banged down his gavel and sentenced wrong-doers to bring a holiday turkey to court.

It should come as no surprise that this holiday season is replete with soul, spirit and a lot of quirk.

A few days ago, the Chabad rabbi, who is never seen in public without his black suit, black hat and pronounced beard, performed a little birthday party for the sun on the central Plaza.

It seems that every 28 years, the sun and planets of our beloved solar system rotate to the exact time and space they occupied at the moment of creation. In case you missed the occasion, you can perhaps be forgiven if you recite the prayer in a tardy but heartfelt way. Don’t worry if you mispronounce the Hebrew words; God, I think, is attuned to intentions. Take a deep, respectful breath and recite:  Baruch atah adonay, eloheynu melech ha’olam, oseh ma’aseh b’reisheet. Bascially, you are blessing The Holy One and thanking him/her for creation.

For the Passover seder, Santa Fe offered a choice of traditional, gender-bending, poetic, women-only, animal friendly, inclusive of Crypto Jews (whose ancestors converted to Catholicism more than 500 years ago to save their lives, but kept up their Hebraic practices in secret), musical, atheistic and others I probably never heard about.

On Good Friday, pilgrims headed for America’s answer to Lourdes—the sanctuary in Chimayo, about 45 minutes from Santa Fe.  The little church is associated with healing, and all year long believers from around the world go a tiny room in the back of the church that has a well filled with holy dirt. They rub it on body parts, bring it home in Styrofoam cups. Many people experience healings on the spot and they leave their crutches and canes and braces in a holy space next to the well room.

This year, it took about two hours to drive to Chimayo. Pilgrims walked along the highways and country roads. There were grandmas and grandpas, parents pushing baby carriages, gang bangers, lovers, teenagers, fashionistas, rockers.  They came by foot, sometimes walking more than 100 miles and carrying crosses (occasionally life-sized) or pictures of Jesus or the Virgin. They came to give thanks, to pray for a suffering friend or family member, as a sign of devotion or because they had made a vow.

They walked in the hot April sun without hats, without sunscreen, without water. Along the way, generous souls offered them drinks. They walked in silence, spoke about God, sang, meditated, atoned, prayed.  Some sported ipods. They shared the roads with hybrids and SUVs, motorcycles and gorgeous, shiny cars from the l950’s and ‘60’s that had been lovingly restored by lowriders. 

When they reached Chimayo, they waited patiently in line—sometimes for several hours—to enter the sanctuary where their prayers would be heard. A few carried flowers or photos of friends and family members who needed healing or had already been healed.

Around noon, there was a re-enactment of the passion of Christ. A few people wept, some ate nachos and roast corn and all were riveted by the compelling and horrifying Easter story when Christ was beaten, humiliated and crucified.

Last night, I decided to throw a Passover rave. It wasn’t listed in the papers. It wasn’t announced on the radio. It was by word of mouth only. Bill, an electrical engineer who recently built his dream house, hosted it. I won’t puncture the matza ball of discretion by telling you what took place, but I can give you a few hints: it wasn’t  a seder, it wasn’t conventional, and there was fabulous pot luck food—including a few dishes prepared by a Mexican vegan chef.  There was a rap song about the kabbalistic interpretation of Passover elements.  There was a prize for the best one-minute Passover story. Everyone in the group came up with lists of the Ten Plagues today. And there were intimate stories of how people were Passed Over by adversity in their lives. Of course there was a lot of laughter to go with the soul.  I promise you, it was the Passover Different.

Whatever your religion or lack of same, whatever your beliefs may or may not be, enjoy this season of equinox, spring and new beginnings. We can all use a huge dollop of renewal and hope.

Your Life is a Trip, and I hope you enjoy it.


Judith Fein is an award-winning travel journalist who has contributed to more than 80 publications. Together with her husband, photographer Paul Ross, she also gives travel talks, teaches travel writing and sometimes takes people on exotic adventures. Her website is www.globaladventure.us

photography by Paul Ross.

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