Stella Leventoyannis Harvey

Tradition does not mean to look after the ash, but to keep the flame alive.” Jean Jaurès

We are celebrating Easter this weekend. This is one of two Easters I’ll be observing (Greek Orthodox Easter is next weekend). I grew up with two Easters because my mother was Catholic and my father was Greek Orthodox. Except for those times (every four years) when the two Easters happened on the same weekend, the two occasions usually meant lots of food in the house and more chocolate (my only preoccupation at the time). 

Not that long ago my parents used to travel by plane to visit us at Easter, lugging my mother’s casseroles and Tupperware filled with her Good Friday dishes (meatless): molokhia soup,baba ganoush, and hummus and Easter treats of Greek cookies (kourabiedesand melomakarona)and of course, chocolate. It was only a few years ago (likely ten or more now) that various airport security personnel teased Mom: Why are you carrying so much food? It’s a one-hour flight to Vancouver. Don’t they have grocery stores? Thanks but I’ve already had lunch. Can’t your daughter cook? 

Yes, her poor husband cooks, my mother would reply with what I know must have been the downcast eyes of shame. My daughter doesn’t cookI have to give her husband a break. He deserves it.

She used to joke that more than one officer gave her that perceptive look of understanding and empathy. 

I shake my head when I think about these exchanges she had and I can still picture my father’s red face and read his mind: Why are you making me drag all this stuff onto an airplane. They don’t do these things in this country. You know this. You’ve lived her long enough.

The image and these scenes make me smile. 

I (well, not me) continue to try to recreate those special recipes for each of the two Easters. Thankfully she shared her cooking prowess with my husband.

We don’t make nearly as many dishes and sometimes we change them up, but we follow the heart of their traditions: celebrating two Easters with all the fixings, observing no meat on both Good Fridays. Yes, and there is always chocolate. It, along with the food is not as important to me, anymore.

My parents are gone. I feel their loss every day, but in particular on these special occasions. Still, I keep the flame of tradition going for them and for me. 

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