Holidays and food traditions tend to go hand in hand. For food allergy families, the social and religious traditions around meals and treats can transform those observances into a minefield of risk.
When it’s a holiday like Passover or Easter with food knit closely to your religious traditions, the stress can feel kicked up an extra notch. How do you balance tradition with safety? The following list of potential concerns and solutions may help you prepare.
The Passover Seder
The Passover Seder is composed with a long list of traditional meals and food-based components that help us connect with the story of Passover and honor our faith. Here’s the good news: most of the food-based traditions on our table can be substituted for safer options. Have a conversation with your allergist and your rabbi to identify ways you might incorporate those adaptations while balancing health and tradition. You’ll find a list of adaptations to consider here: Celebrating Passover with Food Allergies.
The Last Supper
For many Christians, the week leading up to Easter is filled with religious observances and traditions from Palm Sunday through Good Friday. For some, Maundy Thursday worship services offer an opportunity to remember the Last Supper by taking communion. For those with wheat allergies or who need to avoid gluten, this presents a familiar conundrum as one of the elements involved is a small bit of bread.
Speak to clergy ahead of time and ask about using a safe substitution for the allergic individuals in your family. Some churches will offer a gluten-free wafer or cracker as a regular part of their communion services already. Others may be willing or able to permit you to bring a safe substitute by request.
Go Plastic, Wood, or Ceramic
If egg allergies are a concern for your family, this spring’s holidays are a basket full of stressful encounters. From the hard-boiled egg on the Seder table to the egg dyeing and hunts connected with Easter, eggs are everywhere. The good news is that you can skip the hard-boiled variety.
During Passover, the hard-boiled egg is used to represent rebirth. A simple substitute, as noted in the article linked above, would be to fill a plastic egg with sunflower or pumpkin seeds your guests can safely eat or some type of seed that can be planted afterwards.
Looking to color Easter eggs? Hit the craft store. There’s a variety of papier-mâché, wood, plastic, plaster, and dye-able ceramic eggs that can be used instead. Of course when it comes to a good old-fashioned egg hunt, filling plastic eggs with safe treats is always a great option!
Do Your Homework
From appetizers to desserts, holiday meals are a time to indulge and enjoy dishes we might not usually get to eat. Before you dig in, do your due diligence. Read labels. Ask questions. Don’t just eyeball what’s on your plate and make a guess about what’s in it. If you’re the cook, take the time to understand dietary restrictions of your guests and seek out recipes that can easily be adapted to accommodate as many of the people around your table as possible. Yes, it can take a little extra work to create an allergy friendly, scrumptious meal, but being able to share a meal with everyone present is a unique gift that’s worth the effort.
Yes, this time of year our tables are loaded with special dishes from the Passover lamb to the Easter Ham and everything in between. There’s more to these special days, however, than the food we eat. Take the time to focus on the people you’re celebrating with. Build new traditions that put the focus on the who instead of the “what we eat.”
Trade in your early morning brunch with a walk at the park or beach. Switch out the candy and treats in your plastic eggs for pieces of a puzzle that you and your guests can assemble throughout the day. Make these holidays the day you fill planters with pansies and other early spring flowers and surprise people in your neighborhood or in your contact list with a pot of sunny colors.