Easter celebrations 2016

2016-02-22 14.01.01

When I began blogging four years ago, one of my first questions for you old-timers who were there was—How do you celebrate Easter?

In my experience it is the almost-missed Christian holiday in the Mennonite church. All sorts of treats and traditions have grown up around our Christmases, including non-overtly-spiritual traditions like homemade candy, piles of presents, and sledding parties. But somehow Easter…

Hmm. Easter. Let me think.
There’s an early service at church, and um…
Let me think…

Four years ago, I wanted to find ways to build excitement, anticipation, and joy into this best of holidays. Since then, we’ve found delight in trying new ideas as a family and seeing what works for us. Some years we’ve travelled. Some years we’ve hosted Easter egg hunts for children, with slices of layer cake for the adults.

This year we reinstated some favorite traditions, and started some new ones I predict will be keepers. I know I’m a month late. But I’d like to share our most meaningful with you, to tuck in your brain file for next year…

1. Resurrection eggs

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Did you know it’s very simple to make your own set of resurrection eggs?

You fill a dozen hollow egg shells with symbolic items to tell the story of Jesus’ final week. Your child opens one a day, and reads the accompanying passage of Scripture. We tweaked ours to include a few extras, combining ideas from this site and this site with a few of our own. (There are even printable Scripture cards here.)

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My favorite bit was our tiny crown of thorns.

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2. A mercy garden

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I am about five years behind on this one. I understand Ann Voskamp created or popularized the idea some time ago, but this was the first year I joined in with my five-year-old daughter. We found it surprisingly meaningful, to dig real earth and arrange real stones and know that his body rested in THIS. Our tiny tomb was chilling, and beautiful. We put a candle in it.

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3. A Passover meal

I’ve always wanted to attend a Passover meal; this year, I did a little research and hosted one for our children on Thursday night, the evening Jesus shared Passover with his disciples before his death. The Zook family did not go kosher. I got a headache just reading the regulations, and in the end I said “All things are lawful unto me” and served normal food, picking and choosing which symbols to keep and which to omit.

We ate roasted leg of lamb and unleavened bread and bitter herbs and haroset.

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This is not a good shot, but I was a little too busy being there to also be a great photographer.

Since our children are young and squirmy, we didn’t get to do the readings I was hoping. We were in this for the food alone. But there is always next year…

4. Good Friday singing

In our community, a Friday evening church service is not a thing. This year, my parents invited us to a beautiful new tradition—meeting in their home with a few friends to sing. We sang by candlelight, songs of the suffering of Christ interspersed with Scripture readings. When the music was done, we blew out our candles and left in silence.

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5. Time in a graveyard

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Photo credit: Ryan Zook

Maybe this one sounds macabre—but did you know that Jesus actually died? Saturday night, Ryan and I took our family to a much-beloved and beautiful graveyard. The children played while we sat and talked, then Ryan read aloud the story of Jesus’ death. Then we went out and bought ice cream. There is no symbolism in ice cream that I can find, but it is sweet to share with your family.

And Sunday?

Waking in the darkness to hurry our family to church. Coffee and donuts. An early praise service. Songs from little children. Brunch shared with our congregation. Naps at home. Chocolates. A delicious evening dinner with extended family.

I think it was the best Easter I’ve ever had.

Now it’s your turn to add to my files for next year… How did you celebrate? What traditions have you passed down or begun?

11 thoughts on “Easter celebrations 2016

  1. Oh Shari, this is so wonderful!! Such great ideas. I love everything about this. Thanks for sharing your ideas…. it looked like a wonderful Easter

  2. These are beautiful ideas. Lately I too have been thinking about the lack of celebration in my circles and wishing that Easter could become more of a sacred and celebratory occasion. Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. All things are lawful for me. I loved that sentence.

    I also grew up with extended traditions at church at Easter. Not all Easter related but it made the day special.

    Breakfast at church after an early service and then there was always a guest speaker who shared their life story.

    Now I just go to church like normal. I miss the tradition we had.

  4. I love the mercy garden idea. You’re inspiring me to plant one to put on my porch this spring/summer! Yours is so beautiful! What kinds of plants did you use? (I’m trying to decide if the greenery in front of the crosses is a kind of herb?)

    My family has celebrated the Passover Seder for years — it’s always so special and meaningful. My mom always puts a lot of work into hosting it. We’re missing it this year, sadly! (Jewish Passover and Easter don’t always coincide, so we can’t always make the 6 hour trip for both) I would like to host it in our home someday. 🙂

    • I used what I think would be called weeds… 🙂 But the truth is just that I don’t know the names of them. I’d have loved to use my herbs, but they weren’t up enough yet. The one in front of the crosses looks like thyme, but is unscented and grows in my yard. In front of that is a groundcover whose starts I snitched from my grandmother’s rock garden. And then of course mosses, and the spider plant start.

      I would love to hear more about Passover Seder from someone who does it regularly. Do you go kosher? Do you do the recitations & readings? What parts would you never want to omit?

      • When I’m in Israel, I attend Passover Seders with friends, but I’ve done it at home a few times. We don’t go kosher, but we have bitter herbs, unleavened bread, and grape juice…as well as a festive meal. We some of the readings, and add others that relate to the Last Supper. I would never want to omit…the singing! Singing at the table is beautiful and joyful in a way I can’t well express. (Also! They did that at the Last Supper too.)

        I’ve written a lot more about it at my blog, if you’re still curious.

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