Sharing Traditions

Maria Niechwiadowicz


Growing up, Easter was always one of my favorite holidays, which seems a little out of the norm for the average American child. Why Easter? Easter was our ‘extended family’ holiday, unlike Thanksgiving and Christmas, which were traditionally kept small and intimate.

For us, the festivities started on Easter Saturday with the annual frosting of the bunny cake at my great aunt’s home. Then on Easter Sunday, my mom invited all the in-town relatives, which consisted of cousins, great aunts and uncles, and second cousins. As the oldest cousin of the group, I loved the responsibility Mom gave me to decorate the house, help set the tables, and make name cards for everyone. Easter brunch at the house on Spencer Blvd was an event that the relatives came to expect. There was really no need to invite, but rather remind the attendees that Easter was coming and “you’re bringing the caramel rolls, right?”

My Mom has a spiritual gift of hosting, which she got from my grandmother, and that comes with a gift of inviting. At almost every Easter I can remember, we often had a special guest, someone who was not necessarily tied to the family but needed a ‘home’ for the holiday. One year it was Mom’s work colleague, another year it was an Iraqi acquaintance working in the city, or the Habiger relatives, and I know brought home at least two different international friends from college over the years. Anyway, I think Easter sticks out as my favorite holiday because of the sense of family and of sharing stories.

As I celebrated Easter in Guyuan this weekend, I was overwhelmed with a sense of comfort and a sense of “Mom.” I found myself invited students and friends over to share meals and conversations in the compassionate way that Mom always did. I found myself endlessly in the kitchen preparing, but loving every moment.

The reality is that traditions change with time – Mom moved out of the Spencer house over three years ago, kids grow up and gotta work, or some (cough cough) move to another country for two years. Yet, we each choose how to carry on traditions that mean something to us. Some traditions are steadfast – I can’t go an Easter without eating Gramma Phyllis’ caramel pecan rolls, so I use precious butter and pecans to share them here in China. Some traditions are morphed – sunrise church became a sunrise hike up Dongyue mountain over the past two years, my ‘church’ if you will. And new traditions form – Easter worship with the ukulele!

So I guess changing times are okay if you are still sharing traditions that you love.

Thanks Mom.:)

Spring 2011 028

Me and Mom, 2010

The Easter bunny cake experience, Guyuan 2016.

New event: hosting a Ladies Easter Tea featuring cultures from around the world.

Welcome to Poland!


And a sunrise hike.