Imagine this: As the first pink tendrils of dawn begin unfurling in the sky, residents of a small South Texas town begin making their way to the hill at the eastern end of town. Most are on foot - the town is small enough that everything is within walking distance of everything else. Some carry Bibles, but some carry birdcages of varying sizes and descriptions.
As the townspeople stand close together for the opening songs of the ecumenical service, the soft twittering of finches, parakeets, cockatiels and other pet birds can be heard quietly among the human voices. Eventually, as the sun breaks into a full-blown Easter dawn, the birds respond with equal fervor, their chirping and squawking as much a celebration of the morning as their human counterparts' hymns.
One of my college roommates told me that story of her hometown and, even though I can't remember the name of the town, I'll never forget that image of humans and birds welcoming in Easter morning - which they had done for as long as anyone could remember. She said no one seemed to remember why or when the tradition started, that it was just part of living in that town.
That's the nature of tradition, isn't it? Most have been part of our lives for so long, they seem as real as the sidewalks we walk on. Sometimes, though, we consciously create 'new' traditions - as when our new minister in Santa Fe, N.M., decided it would be great if the teens led Easter sunrise service. At first, there was much grumbling and resistance. By the time my daughter, who was a freshman at the time, was graduating from high school, however, the tradition had taken hold, and leaving it was one of the things she would miss most about going away to college. It still doesn't seem like Easter to me without my daughter and her friends serving a very chilly communion by the dawn's early light.
One year, some Jewish friends invited me to celebrate their Passover seder, and I truly understood the meaning of tradition - a gift that moved me more than they could have imagined.
Here?s to your best holiday traditions ? and to new life, fully shared!
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