This upcoming weekend is often a time for religious celebrations or even just a time to spend with our families. People all over the world will come together with their loved ones to observe Easter and Passover.
Growing up, I always celebrated Passover with a big family gathering. We would sit down around the dining room table for two nights of Seder, a Passover ceremonial dinner. We would pray, read and sing for what felt like hours before we could start eating. All of the cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles came to town, so we could all celebrate together. We were never religious, and the Hebrew passages that I could not understand never meant much to me. But celebrating the big holidays like this one was important to my family – it had more to do with tradition than religion.
Many of my friends are the same way with their families. I knew people who would get dragged to church for Easter when they didn't attend all year. To many of my friends, their faith never meant much to them, but they didn’t complain about attending church once a year because they wanted to appease their parents. The sense of community that comes with religion has always felt nice, and the feast always made the day worth it.
Now, in college, I still make it a point to be with my family for Passover. It is a special feeling to be able to come together with them, and I do not have to travel far to do it. However, I know a lot of students don’t have the same privilege. Finals season is approaching, and it is getting harder to miss a weekend that could be spent studying. For others, getting home is difficult; some struggle for rides, while others have to deal with the high price of flights.
Going home for Passover this weekend, or any holiday you may celebrate, might not be worth it for the students who have been brought up by their parents to celebrate certain holidays. However, there is no reason for anyone to feel guilty about how they celebrate this weekend, if they even choose to celebrate at all. Young adulthood is a time to make personal decisions about your belief systems. In fact, this weekend might be the best time to reevaluate how you will continue to practice religion in your life.
Religion is one of many personal choices that we can take ownership of once we leave our homes and move away from our adolescent lives. It is crucial to forming our own opinions about religion, in the same sense that we form our own opinions about politics. It is not uncommon for those opinions to be the same as the ones your parents hold, but no one should feel guilty if their opinions do not always align.
In Gainesville, there are many places of worship for people of all religions. If you feel inclined to attend services or go to a holiday dinner here without your family, you can easily do so. College is a place for new opportunities, and if you choose to, you can find a religious community that offers you support. You may feel welcomed and loved in this new religious community, and you may find yourself more connected to your religion in your young adult life than you did when you were in high school. Celebrating holidays with friends can bring you even closer to them. Whether or not you choose to celebrate a religious holiday is ultimately your choice. Now is the time to find your footing in a world full of beliefs and to find what feels best to you.
Molly Chepenik is a UF journalism sophomore. Her column appears on Wednesdays.
[FILE PHOTO] A seder sits on a table just before Passover begins. Each ingredient on the plate represents a different part of the story of how the Israelites were liberated from slavery in Egypt thousands of years ago, said Gabriel Ruiz, a UF Health Shands Hospital information technology analyst.