What Celebrating Two Easters Taught Me About Love and Respect

This Sunday, I will go to church, have a big family dinner and break my Lenten fast. Next Sunday, I will go to church, have a big family dinner and break my Lenten fast all over again.

My mother is Catholic and my father is Greek Orthodox, and they chose to raise my sisters and me under both religions. They're both Christian religions, so the general ideas are the same. The discrepancies come up in the details, like which way to do the sign of the cross -- and on what day Easter is celebrated.

"We just always thought we would raise you both, because we thought the religions were so close," my mother said. "The differences were really political."

So every year, we celebrate two Easters. Because the Catholic church uses the Gregorian calendar but the Orthodox one uses the Julian calendar, Easters are typically on different Sundays. On years when the Easters fall on the same day, it's a marathon of eating as we hop from dinner to dinner.

Lamb being prepared at my cousins' house on the Greek side.

"I think the trick is that both parents need to not make it a big deal. It's just: OK, we'll go to this church, and then we'll go to that church," my mother said.

It took years before I realized that it was unusual to have two Easters, and even longer to understand how grateful I should be that my parents were able to so seamlessly meld two religions.

"Neither of us wanted to convert," my dad said when I asked why they chose to keep both faiths in the house. My parents' religions are a distinct part of their cultural identity, so much so that neither of them have ever asked the other to convert, knowing that the other would not want to let go of that part of themselves.

grain pies
My grandmother's Italian grain pies.

My parents' love transcends the political schism that put them on opposite sides of the same coin. They have continually shown me that individuals matter much more than the labels we give them and the lines we're told to draw.

Rather than argue that one's religion is better than the other's, my parents respect each other's culture. This mutual respect taught me that loving someone isn't just about tolerating their differences -- it's about including and celebrating them, and waiting patiently in the pew while half of the family gets communion.

My parents asked if I ever felt confused by having two religions in the house, and I told them that I have not. I was raised to honor other people's beliefs, and I've been lucky to grow up with two incredible cultures. I can learn how to cook with my Italian nonna and, a week later, playfully argue with my Greek cousins over who's cheating at the egg game.

Easter is my favorite holiday because I get to spend quality time with both sides of my family and see the beauty in both of my faiths...and the endless amounts of Italian grain pie and Greek koulourakia certainly don't hurt.