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How, and why we celebrate

Sunday is Easter, and this Holy Week has been filled with activities at churches across Selma and Dallas County.

It started last Sunday with Palm Sunday services.

Maundy Thursday services were held, as well as daily services at downtown churches. There was a Last Supper re-enactment Thursday downtown and other activities are planned for today – Good Friday.

No doubt there’ll be Easter egg hunts across the area Saturday, then sunrise services, and special church events on Sunday.

When I was growing up, Easter was a huge holiday in my family. Not only was there the religious aspect of the special day, and the traditional Easter egg hunt, baskets and chocolate.

Easter meant a big family get-together with our extended family, and a huge spread for lunch, usually including ham and potato salad, along with a coconut cake for dessert.

For my family, Easter was right up there with Christmas and Thanksgiving on the list of favorite holidays.

A quick survey of some of my co-workers, however, revealed that Easter is not such a huge holiday for everyone.

While egg hunts and Easter baskets filled with goodies do seem to be traditional for most, big family get-togethers with a special meal prepared are not necessarily part of everyone’s day.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to realize I grew up in a very special household. My parents recognized every holiday as an “occasion.”

I think maybe my father knew there was so much bad in the world, that we should celebrate the good every chance we got.

And, so we celebrated. Big.

New Year’s Day meant all the traditions, including black-eyed peas for good luck and greens for prosperity.

Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day, Easter (of course), Fourth of July, Labor Day – all were just excuses really to get together with family members and eat a lot of food (most often cooked out on a grill).

Birthday parties are huge affairs as well. This past weekend I went home for my oldest niece’s 20th birthday. My sister joked that it had been a weekend-long affair. That’s just to be expected.

There are a lot of good things that come as a result of throwing these types of celebrations, and that’s aside from celebrating the birth, death and resurrection of Christ.

For one thing, you get to enjoy a lot of really great cooking.

No event was complete until the dessert table had been set out and that alone was worth the drive to whatever relative was hosting the affair.

Secondly, my sister, brother and I spent a lot of quality time with our extended family. We were always close to our aunts, uncles, grandparents, great-grandparents and, of course, our cousins, who we’d spend the day with while we escaped from the adults.

Maybe most importantly was the lesson I think my father and mother were trying to teach us – to enjoy the good things when they come along. To celebrate each and every aspect of life.

Even holidays that seem to be created by the greeting card companies or florists, like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, give us an opportunity to cherish the people who are most important to us.

And so, Sunday, I’ll have a coconut cake, with pastel colored jelly beans on top, and enjoy my Easter celebration.

TAMMY LEYTHAM is editor of The Selma Times-Journal.