Today is Day Five of Passover, a Jewish festival which celebrates the exodus from Egypt. While our Christian - and atheist - family and friends are enjoying Hot Cross buns and Easter eggs, we're enduring matzah, an unleavened bread eaten at this time of year.
We eat matzah to remember the slavery, not only of our own people, but that there are still people in the world today who are not free. We don't just focus on the sadness of slavery, however, but the joy of freedom and liberation. During Passover, there are five grains that are forbidden: wheat, rye, spelt, barley and oats. If it's used to make matzah it's okay but that's all. Some people take it further, some less; in our family we simply avoid those grains and all products using them. Apart from matzah, which is wheat based, this puts us on a gluten free diet for a week.
I'm tall and thin and don't eat red meat. I'm constantly hungry at the best of times and really rely on healthy carbs. That being the case I find Passover difficult. But that's a good thing. I want to be reminded that I'm fortunate and free and live a wonderful and blessed life. I want to be reminded that others don't so I don't forget to be grateful and do what I can to help.
It isn't just people who are less fortunate socio-economically that I'm reminded of. Two of my best friends and one of my nieces suffer from coeliac disease. This means they have to be on a gluten free diet all the time. My niece was around two when she was diagnosed so has only known a gluten free diet but my two friends were into middle-age. That's quite an adjustment to make. Each year, at this time, I'm reminded that I'm also fortunate not to have to limit my diet and that - touch wood - my health is only contingent on good nutrition, not a special diet.
Unlike the poorest of the world who struggle to eat and my two friends and niece, when the sun sets on Monday I can return to a gluten filled life. Furthermore, I'm happy not to touch another piece of matzah until next Passover. First stop Tuesday morning is the supermarket to buy up big on all those Hot Cross buns on sale!
Chag Sameach/Happy Easter.