HANANIA: Benefits of not being a traditional Christian, For Immediate Release, March 27, 2008

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Benefits of Not Being A Traditional Christian
By Ray Hanania —
My parents were Greek Orthodox, a religion that later split in one of those typically Mediterranean emotion-filled arguments into the “Antiochian” Orthodox Church. While I try to avoid the religious confusion of being a Christian, there were many benefits of being in a “minority” sect. This past Sunday was Easter for most Western Christians. But Orthodox Easter isn’t until April 27.

 It’s good and bad. Twice, I deal with a guilty conscience over what to eat on “Good Friday.”I also get to color two sets of hard-boiled eggs. The first this week in multi-colors with rabbit images — I have a 7-year-old son and even though he is being raised Jewish, like his mother, you still engage in the superficial aspects of Christian religious holidays.

The second set next month will feature eggs colored deep purple to reflect the “passion” of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, which is what Easter is supposed to symbolize.

Western Easter, like most Western holidays, is too commercialized. It’s about “buying,” not praying.

But, by the time we get to Orthodox Easter, the Orthodox are enjoying the post-Western Easter items selling at half price. Not missed in my household is the true meaning of Easter — egg fights.

My uncle Farid always suckered me into using the fat end of the egg. He always won.

We had purple egg shells all over the place after those Easter egg battles.

(The Orthodox come from a region of the world where “battles” is the norm and egg fighting is an Olympic tradition.)

Of course, the other benefit is that I can buy those marshmallow “Peeps” at discounted prices, too. Who buys all that unsold Easter stuff after Western Easter? Us Orthodox Christians.

Although my parents were Orthodox, when I was young in the ’60s, there were no Orthodox Churches on Chicago’s Southeast Side. My dad was from Jerusalem and my mom was from Bethlehem. The real one. They were very religious, so we had to go to a church.

We went to the Baptist Church, but they were always screaming, yelling and hitting each other’s foreheads. When the Baptist minister made a pass at Mom, Dad sought sanctuary at the Catholic Church, until the priest started hitting on me.

They enrolled me in the Protestant Church. I was “confirmed” Lutheran. One thing about Protestants, they’re too busy fighting among themselves — there are four sects — and they are too busy to notice the olive-skinned Arabs who were learning to be WASPs.

Still, Easter was a drama at the Hanania household on south Luella Avenue back in the ’60s. Mom wore a huge colorful bonnet. Dad made me dress in a suit with a crisp white shirt, like his own. We had matching snap-on ties.

The best part of Easter was the food.

My mom made food like she was cooking for an army. And we had so many relatives, the house looked like an INS processing center.

Easter dinner consisted of grape leaves and squash stuffed with rice and diced lamb, tabouli salad and hummus dip soaked in olive oil. And we also had a huge lamb on a bed of rice and pine nuts.

Then, weeks later, we’d do it all over again.

As my dad always used to say in his second round of toasting and prayers, “I love this country. Where else in the world can you celebrate a holiday twice in the same year?”

(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist, author and radio talk show host. He can be reached at www.RadioChicagoland.com. Arab American Writers Group Syndicate, www.ArabWritersGroup.com.)

This post has already been read 65 times!

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and Columnist who began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He covered Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992 (Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley) and has expanded to writing for newspapers around the world focussed on Middle East and American politics.

Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.

Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites TheArabDailyNews.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.

His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania

Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com