The past week was active for many of the faith communities at Tufts, marking the celebration of Passover and Easter, the ongoing celebration of Ramadan and a belated Holi celebration. The University Chaplaincy offered in-person events to mark these holidays after two years of virtual celebrations.
Lynn Cooper, Tufts’ Catholic chaplain, described the excitement that she and her colleagues felt in anticipation of the spring holidays.
“It’s just been a joy to be preparing for these holy days with my colleagues and with our greater … multifaith community,” Cooper said. “I have really delighted in that spirit of solidarity.”
Muslim Chaplain Najiba Akbar was similarly excited to come together as a community to celebrate.
“Just being able to break fast and pray together in congregation has been the most exciting thing after a fairly isolated Ramadan experience for Muslims worldwide during Covid for the past two years,” Akbar wrote in an email to the Daily.
Practicing Protestant and Catholic students spent the week leading up to April 17 preparing for Easter. Rev. Daniel Bell, Tufts’ Protestant chaplain, explained the importance of this week for many Christians.
“Holy Week [is] a sacred time considered to be very special for the faithful, falling between the end of the Lenten season and the coming of Easter, when Christians celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ,” he wrote in the chaplaincy newsletter. “Holy Week is when Christians remember with special devotion Jesus’ final days on Earth, including His arrest, crucifixion, and execution at the hands of the Romans.”
Observation of Holy Week for the Catholic community at Tufts began with the Stations of the Cross on Wednesday, April 13, led by sophomore Sebastián Fernández.
An ecumenical Good Friday service was offered by the Protestant and Catholic chaplaincies with leadership from Bell and Cooper. Students participated in the service through Bible readings of the crucifixion and resurrection stories.
“It’s a story … that, the way it’s told in the Gospel of John, has deep implications for anti-Semitism in Christianity,” Cooper said. “The way that we have to frame those texts is really important … in a multifaith landscape and in a context where anti-Semitic violence continues.”
Friday, April 15 was the start of the Jewish holiday of Passover. Rabbi Naftali Brawer, Jewish chaplain and Neubauer executive director of Tufts Hillel, explained how meaningful it was to return to celebrating in person with the Tufts community.
“Judaism is a religion that is particularly attuned to family and community,” Brawer wrote in an email to the Daily. “And nowhere is this more pronounced than at the Seder where we sit together over a shared meal and tell stories about our people’s past and imagine its future.”
Brawer reflected on the importance of Passover and the Seder.
“Passover celebrates the birth of the Jewish people. Its overarching message is the importance of memory,” Brawer wrote. “Passover is the repository of memories. At the seder we retrieve these memories and at the same time, create new memories for our children and future generations.”
Students had the chance to attend community dinners and lunches at the Hillel Center with kosher for Passover food provided by Tufts Dining. At least one community meal is offered at Hillel every day for the duration of Passover, with additional meals at the Chabad House.
Saturday, April 16 brought a belated Holi celebration, organized by the Hindu Students Council and the Tufts Association of South Asians. Holi occurred this year on March 18. Hindu advisor Dr. Preeta Banerjee noted that students waited to celebrate until after spring break so that they could be together.
“It’s crazy that it’s actually been three years since our last Holi, which was in Spring 2019,” Sithara Nambiar, former HSC president, wrote in an email to the Daily. “But the wait has certainly made this year’s event especially memorable!”
The event included performances, food and the opportunity to throw rang, a colorful powder, at other participants to celebrate the Hindu festival of colors, along with white shirts for the first 100 attendees.
“Celebrating an event like Holi on campus is such a great way to integrate Tufts students from a variety of backgrounds and cultures,” Nambiar wrote. “It’s truly heartwarming that we can acknowledge and participate in this important Hindu festival as a community.”
Sunday, April 17 included Easter celebrations for the Christian community.
“We begin linked together on Ash Wednesday in Goddard Chapel and … we’re going to be in Goddard Chapel at 5 p.m. celebrating Easter Sunday,” Cooper said. “This is a communal experience.”
While a Catholic Mass was offered by the University Chaplaincy, Protestant students at Tufts were encouraged to attend Easter Sunday services off campus with a local congregation.
“The idea is to join a larger community to celebrate,” Bell wrote.
All students were welcome to attend a catered Easter dinner offered jointly by the Catholic Community at Tufts and Protestant Students Association.
The weekend also marked the midway point of Ramadan, a holiday marked by a month of fasting and prayer for observant Muslims. Ramadan began April 1.
“Ramadan is described as the month of fasting in the Quran, and it is prescribed as a way for Muslims to increase their consciousness of God and also to increase one’s sense of gratitude [sic] for life’s blessings,” Akbar wrote. “It’s so lovely to see the community gather and eat together after a long day of fasting. It’s a special moment of pause, where everyone can just be together and enjoy a communal meal, something that is rare in the typical fast-paced week.”
The Muslim chaplaincy and Muslim Students Association have been focused on ensuring food access for fasting students who live in dorms. The Tufts Community Union Senate approved supplementary funding for Ramadan, which has made communal meals and upcoming Eid al-Fitr celebrations possible. Additionally, Akbar organized a Ramadan food pantry to ensure all students have access to nutritious halal food when they break their fast, even if they are not on the meal plan.
A sense of gratitude to be together once again connects all of these celebrations.
“Given how often we have been prevented by COVID from gathering and celebrating, I feel especially drawn to give thanks for the joy we find in community,” Bell wrote.