Did you celebrate how Good your Friday was last week? No, I'm not talking about looking forward to the weekend (partying, partying, yeah!). Maybe you didn't even remember that it was Holy Week until you got a package filled with chocolate rabbits and Cadbury Creme Eggs from your family, or snagged some from your luckier roommate. Passover also ended on Tuesday, which means no more choking down matzo or surreptitiously munching on leavened foods. Didn't know that Passover has passed either? More than Easter or Pesach, Mardi Gras, the blowout celebration that traditionally serves as a last hurrah before the dour and restrained forty days of Lent, is probably the most observed–or at least the most visible –day of the religious season on the 5Cs.
Despite Claremont's atheist reputation, many students at the Claremont Colleges come from religious backgrounds of different faiths and levels of observance. Easter and Passover are interesting cases to consider as they often bring out even the least observant of both faiths: “C and E” or “Christmas and Easter Christians,” who visit church only twice a year and “Hanukkah and Passover Jews,” their synagogue-attending analogs.
For those who grew up celebrating these holidays, they can elicit a twinge of homesickness and longing to sit down with parents, grandparents, and cousins at an Easter Sunday feast or gather around the Seder table. A friend’s Facebook status a few days into Passover read: “just for today, wishing I was back home! It’s just not a holiday here…” Others may be breathing a sigh of relief to be halfway across the country and off the hook from an interminable Easter Mass.
The Claremont bubble tends to stifle the observance of Easter and Passover. Free from the pressures of family and community, we may revel in ignoring the holidays entirely. Your suitemate isn’t going to call you out for having a bite or two of chametz (any kind of leavened food, forbidden during Passover) or not sticking to your resolution to give up chocolate, swearing, or some other vice for Lent. No one will ever have to know if you don’t even go to an Easter service. Yet for this reason Easter and Passover on campus can force us to reexamine our faith and how we practice it: Namely, do we really have any? For those of us who identify as Christian or Jewish, if we can’t even bring ourselves to celebrate the most important holidays of our faiths, what exactly are we doing?
Before the Easter service I was attending last Sunday began, I found myself chatting with an elderly woman, not an uncommon occurrence at any church, anytime, anyplace. After making kindly inquiries into my major, hometown, et cetera, the woman remarked, “I’ve been going to church all my life. But the years I didn’t go? When I was in college.” College is a time of exploration, particularly the spiritual kind. Some of us may drift away from the faith of our parents, never to return. Others will find a new way–or a new meaning–of seeing the divine in their lives.
Although Pomona’s original motto was “Our Tribute to Christian Civilization,” the school regularly cracks the Princeton Review's Top 20 Least Religious Students list. While it would be difficult to argue that the Claremont Colleges are particularly religious, the live-and-let-live attitude that prevails could mean there’s more spirituality on campus than you’d expect–people just keep it to themselves. So happy Easter, Passover, May Day, or whatever holiday you celebrate. Go get all that candy while it's still on sale.