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Celebrating Holy Holidays at Home

How to connect with your family through religious traditions in this “new normal.”

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Families that commemorate religious occasions this time of year—Easter, Passover, and Ramadan—still face challenges in keeping their traditions, a year into the pandemic. While we wait for vaccination rates to cover the general population, there will be limits to gathering around tables and in ritual spaces. Yet, spiritual practices remain grounding for families in a time like this. Online resources and some of Colorado’s faithful can help you make the most of at-home holy days.

Holy Week

March 28 to April 3

Easter baskets, chocolate eggs, bunnies, and egg hunts are fun parts of celebrating Easter, but there’s more to the Christian Church’s Holy Week observances. Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday (The Last Supper), Good Friday, and Easter often include cherished worship and fellowship gatherings.

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In some churches, children’s ministries are still limited for in-person service. Colorado Community Church in Aurora presented their “Road to Resurrection,” a theatrical and interactive tour of Jesus’ journey, in person with social distancing in mid March. On March 27, they’ll host a Tenebrae service with special family programming including busy boxes to keep the kids participating (and occupied).

Parents can also continue picking up bags with ongoing Sunday school activities and resources for spiritual guidance at home.

“Parents are the primary spiritual leaders of the kids. If there’s one thing this season and COVID has taught us is how to walk alongside parents in that role,” says Annie Waterman, children’s ministry pastor at Colorado Community Church.

Easter Sunday Mass and the Triduum services (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Saturday Vigil) at Most Precious Blood Catholic Church in Denver will look like a mixture of live streaming and limited seating in-person options.

“We have had a year of working hard to create a space where we are able to celebrate the Eucharist safely in our community,” says Kristen Kraus, member of the church’s Faith Formation Team. “We have learned a lot of new things and have grown to appreciate each other and our time together even more over the past year.”

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The Faith Formation Team is also offering a monthly newsletter to families with a Theological Reflection, a storybook idea, table talk options to open conversations, and service opportunities. Kraus also points parents to online teaching resources such as Loyola Press and St. Mary’s Press for books and activities for youth religious education.

More ways to practice Holy Week traditions at home:

Passover

March 27 to April 4

This seven to eight day holiday marking the Jewish Feast of the Unleavened Bread involves prayers, elaborate dinners, storytelling, and song. The first two nights, families gather for Seders, 15-step family-oriented ritual packed meals. Much of Passover is celebrated in the home, says Rabbi Emily Hyatt of Temple Emanuel in Denver, but that can mean a 40-person gathering of close friends and relatives. This year calls for innovation.

Temple Emanuel of Denver, which typically hosts a first night Seder that draws 450 people, will lead an observance live on Facebook for anyone to join. They’ll also coordinate traditional meals for pickup in advance.

“The word for Egypt, in Hebrew, is Mitztrayim, which also translates to ‘narrowness,'” says Hyatt. “This year we’re thinking about how we safely, carefully, kindly, slowly, and thoughtfully make our own journey out of a year that has been so narrow, so closed in and isolated, to what we pray will be a year that begins to open, to expand and widen—just like the spring that comes every year with Passover.”

Temple Emanuel is engaging thousands on livestreamed Shabbat services, checking in with congregants, and conducting Zoom calls with kids to sing and to process the news. Hyatt, a single mother herself, reminds parents to talk about the power of family, community, and values in Judaism that can help make sense of the current situation. Social distancing relates to the value of saving a life: pikuach nefesh. The story of the Passover and Exodus as told at Seders includes both darkness, wandering, and freedom. Families celebrating at home can find teachable moments in the tales, rituals, and songs.

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More resources to engage the whole family in Passover traditions:

Ramadan

April 12 to May 12

During this holy month in Islam, after each days-long fasting, Muslims typically gather with friends and family or head to a mosque for an iftar (fast-breaking meal) and a two-hour-long prayer. It’s a time in which Muslims celebrate the gift of the Quran to the prophet Muhammad.

Iman Jodeh, Colorado State Representative and spokesperson for the Colorado Muslim Society, says: “If we can shift people’s perspectives and say this time focus on your inner supplications (dua), on your relationship with God, and humbling your own perspective on the world, rather than focusing on those gatherings like we usually do, then Ramadan will take on a new meaning, but it’s not a wrong meaning.”

Significant practices in Ramadan, including fasting and giving zakat (charity), offer Muslims a time to reflect, detach from daily indulgences, and count family, health, and food as blessings. Families that fill time at home with spiritually meaningful practices, says Jodeh, are made strong in times like these.

The Colorado Muslim Society’s mosque is open at limited capacity and continues live streamed Friday prayers. Ramadan plans are still under review while local health guidelines are being finalized.

Ramadan routines unify Muslim communities, but the way individual families celebrate at home vary in traditions and special foods prepared for the holiday. Parents can find increasing amounts of Ramadan-related items in stores and online, then help children take ownership of the month and make it a special time for them personally.

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“It is fun for the kids because this is when you start to introduce them to a lot of these things,” says Jodeh. “I really am looking forward to seeing how parents are going to adapt and make Ramadan more creative and fun for their children rather than making them feel that they’re missing out on something.”

More ways to celebrate and reflect during Ramadan:


How are you celebrating these holy holidays? Share your new traditions with us by tagging #ShareColoradoParent on your social platforms.


Editor’s note: This article has been updated from an April 2020 original version.

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