Easter has always been one of my favorite holidays.
The candy won me over early on, but as I got older and was able to catch the significance of the holiday, it really captured my imagination. I always loved the symbolism of a sunrise service--particularly at my Grandma's church, where they held theirs at a nearby cemetery. And then singing with said Grandma "Christ the Lord has Risen Today" in her wonderfully, warble-y, little old lady voice. Ahhh . . .
My first Easter in Mexico, while I did my study-abroad semester my second year of college, I expected big things. After all, I had always been told that Easter is a big, stinkin', huge deal in Mexico. And as I was hanging out all of Holy Week with a church group that I had joined, I was sure we'd celebrate an Easter to remember.
Not so. This specific church group, who I affectionately nicknamed the "Crazy Church", did not celebrate holidays. No mention of Easter was made. So disappointing!
Three years later, I visited Mario for Semana Santa. We spent the week in Puerto Escondido and drove back to Puebla on Saturday. It was nearing midnight when we were nearing the city, and on either side of the highway, huge fireworks were bursting, announcing Jesus's triumph over death. Being the pyro I am, I contentedly sighed and said, "now THAT's how Easter should be celebrated!"
Drawn to fireworks, and desperately needing a walk after the horrendous, hours-long drive through the mountains of Oaxaca, I convinced Mario to come with me to check out the fireworks, which they seemed to be shooting off from the zocalo in Cholula (where he lived). At the same time, one of the churches on the zocalo was just beginning their Easter Vigil.
I had never been to an Easter Vigil, but as they were lighting a bonfire in the courtyard, I was intrigued and had to watch. The symbolism of lighting the fire in the dark of the night spoke to me. As our parish priest said this weekend, "this is where everything begins anew." Oooo-it gives me chills! I do like a new beginning.
However, Mario and I were dead on our feet at that point, so when the candle-carriers left the courtyard and filed into the church, we beat it back home.
The following year, I was living in Puebla and my parents picked that Saturday before Easter to fly down and visit me--their first time in Mexico. I remembered being drawn to the Easter Vigil the year before, and convinced Mario and my parents that we should check it out.
Oh, would that Mario had warned us what we were getting into!
After the awe-inspiring opening bonfire, we filed into the church for what turned out to be hours and hours of readings. From what I could follow, we were reading our way through the entire Bible. And this was my parents' first day in Mexico, and they don't speak any Spanish! Yikes! I can't say I've ever spent a more uncomfortable evening. Every moment, I felt that we should go, but then SOMETHING was bound to happen, right? Surely this would end sometime, no?
FINALLY, we arrived at the New Testament readings, the lights flipped on, bells rang out and it was another stirring moment.
Then they read for a few more hours. My poor parents. When it finally ended, we left more than a little bit shell-shocked.
It took me a few years to brave another Eater Vigil. But my presence was requested at one, three years after my parents' first night in Mexico, when adults are traditionally confirmed. So I went. And got confirmed. And since it was held in my church in Indiana, in English, I got a lot more out of it. And found it was really beautiful after all.
Now that my Spanish is much improved, and I have a clue what I'm getting myself into (and I don't have to translate for my parents . . . I'm a terrible, terrible translator), I've found that those Eater Vigils really are a highlight of my Spring. Again, there's nothing quite so refreshing as celebrating new beginnings.
PS: for any offended by the nickname "Crazy Church", I do apologize. Those friends that I made at the "Crazy Church" were lifesavers during that semester abroad, and I remember and respect all of them fondly. They were hands-down wonderful people. But they were the kind of church that spoke in tongues, fell down in trances, and were otherwise moved. I grew to respect that tradition more than I ever thought I would, but I'd be kidding myself if I didn't admit that it still weirds me out. Hence, "Crazy Church". But they were a wonderful, wonderful group of people.