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A holy season is upon us. The Jewish population celebrates Passover, which began Monday, for eight days, while Christians will celebrate Easter on Sunday. How do teens participate in these holidays, honor their faith traditions and do they pray? Interviews with five teens of different faiths reveal strong connections to belief in a supreme being and desire to honor childhood teachings.

Seth Rait, a junior at Sweet Home High School, explains the importance of the celebration of Passover. The Seder feast honors the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. This custom includes serving food, wine and retelling the story of the exodus, which is found in the Torah. This holy scripture contains Jewish law, culture and tradition and is made up of the first five books of the Bible. The books of the Bible are separated into the old and new testaments. Both Christians and Jews find their roots in the Bible.

When he was younger, Seth attended religious classes at Temple Beth Am after school and studied to prepare for his bar mitzvah, a coming of age ceremony. He also attended a youth group. When asked about the importance of prayer, Seth says that while he currently doesn’t attend Friday evening services, “every Friday my extended family gathers and we have our own services and we pay homage.”

Regarding his view of God, he said: “I’ve given it a lot of thought and never really [have] been able to come to a conclusion, but I view Him more benevolently than some might.” Seth adds, “I do try to hold firm to my religion because I think it is important for everyone to have faith of any kind, whether it agrees or not with mine.”

When discussing prayer, Seth said, “I don’t see praying as a way to achieve or get things done, I see it more as honoring. I think praying can have an effect on the world, not in the sense that it is praying but because it brings unity. That’s why I believe in religion. I think people need unity and solidarity.”

Christianity includes many different religions that celebrate Easter. Easter commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ at Calvary, and his resurrection, as described in the New Testament of the Bible.

Miranda Lefebvre, a 14-year-old student at Sweet Home Middle School, has been a member of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, Buffalo-Kenmore Sunday School, since she was 3. She will celebrate Easter by attending Sunday service with her parents and sister. On most Sundays, she attends Sunday school class, where she studies the Bible and “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” written by Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science. Christian Scientists place the emphasis of Easter on the celebration of the resurrection of Christ.

“The resurrection of Jesus taught us that life is eternal and that we are spiritual, not material,” Miranda said. She also shares that her favorite service of the year is on Thanksgiving Day because “we get to stand up [at the appointed time] and share what we are grateful for.”

Miranda wants people to know that Christian Science is not the same as Scientology.

“Christian Science is about correcting your thinking and seeing yourself as God sees you.”

In 2011, Lefebvre attended the Christian Science Toronto Youth Summit.

“It was amazing,” she said. “It was really cool to see many kids coming from different places. It’s a feeling you can’t explain. I learned so many things from so many wonderful guest speakers and even made friends.”

When asked how and when she prays, Miranda said, “I pray every Sunday at church, on the bus going to school and during the moment of silence, also at school. I think of simple thoughts like God is love, or I reflect God.”

Miranda said that prayer had been helpful to her recently when she traveled to Albany for a leadership conference.

“I was nervous because I was away from home for the first time without my family and I felt overwhelmed,” she said. “So I read our weekly Bible lesson and thought about what qualities I reflect from God such as peacefulness, strength, intelligence and competence. I felt better and had the confidence not to worry or be scared to be away from my family. I had a such a great time, and don’t know why I was ever nervous.”

Angelica Criden, a junior at Williamsville East High School, attends St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church in Amherst. Growing up Catholic, she attended religious education classes until her confirmation. She also attended Holy Angels Academy, where she participated in religion classes every day. Angelica looks forward to the Easter Vigil “which is a really beautiful service, where people who have been studying Catholicism are officially welcomed into the church.” She also looks forward to the Easter pageant, which her father directs.

Angelica reflects on how faith has played a role in her life: “My family holidays are based around my faith. We celebrate Christmas with our family coming for a ‘sausage night’ and then our whole family goes to midnight Mass together. I really love it. We always go to Easter Vigil Mass and then go out for dinner.”

Important to Angelica has been her involvement in Catholic youth groups.

“I attended two week[long] retreats over the summer. They were both equally moving and at both I found God,” she said.

Angelica says she recites four specific prayers before her feet even touch the ground in the morning.

When asked about her view of God, she says, “God is like a brain, you know He is there. You can rely on Him. You can’t see, smell, or touch Him, and you can’t see, smell or touch your brain, but you know it’s there.”

Jason Murawski, a junior at Amherst High School, wasn’t raised in a particular faith, however he chose to adopt certain aspects of the Hindu faith a couple of years ago. He studied major belief systems during a social studies class his freshman year. Hinduism places emphasis on your actions. Hindus believe in reincarnation, a concept that the soul eternally lives many lifetimes, inhabiting different bodies such as animals, plants or humans. The cycle of repeated births and deaths, called Samsara, is determined by Karma, actions in our preset life that determine our fate in the next life. Therefore, any misfortune experienced is the result of our actions in a past life. The spiritual goal of a Hindu is to break the cycle of Samsara, and to achieve Moksha, the freedom from reincarnation, as a result of the self-realization of truth. This particular belief system appealed to Jason.

Though Jason wasn’t raised attending a particular church, “[I remember] lighting candles in a church that I was visiting with my Grandma,” he said.

Hinduism is “not stereotypical. I mean, anyone can really like it,” Jason said. “Most of the time, people are shocked, mostly because they think only Indians practice it. It’s for everyone. Regarding religion, some people think that it has to be followed word-for-word. Though many do follow the faith fully, I picked out parts of the faith that relate to me and my lifestyle.”

As for prayer, Jason said, “I think it gives people a sense of security and hope.” On God, he said, “I don’t think there’s one single person of great power but rather a single great force.”

Sweet Home High School senior Waleed, wishing to be identified only by his first name, was raised as Sunni Islam. He currently attends a mosque in Williamsville. Sunni Islam tradition requires five ritual prayers each day. Followers adhere to the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, who represents the ultimate, good character. Muhammad was sent to teach people how to achieve perfect character. Importance is placed on cultivating a relationship with Muhammad in order to guide one’s behavior.

“Me, personally, I view him as a father to a son and I don’t really believe in hell. I believe He forgives all,” Waleed said.

Waleed says at the mosque “hearing a lot of stories from the Quran, it’s pretty similar to the Bible. My dad has helped me understand, but I have understood more as I get older.”

For holidays, Waleed said, “we celebrate the major holidays, we go to the mosque and have a prayer section. We all fast during the fasting time (no food is consumed between sunrise and sunset).”

Waleed says he prays five times daily. Waleed refers to this daily practice as “mosque inspiring synchronization.”

When asked about the type of praying he does, he said, “It depends on what I am really feeling at the moment, sometimes for forgiveness, it all depends on the situation ... Honestly, [ I pray] for the smallest things.”

Waleed said he believes prayer “can give a sense of hope, peace and tranquility for the future.”

Eliza Lefebvre is a junior at Sweet Home High School.