It’s an unusual Holy Week, and I feel heartbroken (heartbroken is probably too strong a word, but it comes close) to think of Easter without all our traditions and loved ones. I don’t know what it looks like to celebrate a Jesus holiday without Jesus’ body, the church.
One part of me feels renegade and rogue, doing Easter without trappings. Another part feels like a child, getting teary-eyed because the pretty Easter eggs are all hollow this year. And a third feels like Caroline Ingalls, attempting to preserve civilization on the frontier wilds with her tiny gilt-toed shepherdess on the mantel.
Do you know what I am talking about?
The Ingalls family had so small a social life. They went to an enormous amount of trouble, just for them. Every time I read about Ma’s wonderful dress being taken from the trunk, its blackberry buttons twinkling,[A] I think – What was she saving it for? She stitched it by hand, so elaborately, so carefully. Was it worth it for one dance a year? A trip to Pepin, all of nine miles away?
I think of how they did Christmas. Days of cooking and baking. Little crumbly corners nibbled, and all the rest saved for the big day. Luscious secrets, made of nothing but penny candy and red flannel, but rich from the loving care that went into them.
Yes, one part of me hopes I can be Caroline Ingalls this year, and rise up to make this a magically memorable day just for us. Even though no one sees.
I am sewing brand-new, ruffled dresses that my daughters will have to wear at home. We can’t have donuts at church or a ham dinner at Grandma’s. We can’t gather with the saints to sing the songs of joy, and break our grieving.
This week, I asked a few local friends and family for wisdom on how to think about an Easter without traditions: how the Lord may want to grow our hearts, and how to make 2020’s remembrance day special.[B] They lamented with me, but also had some really good things to say about how to do this well.
First, we will need to find the reverent place of worship in our hearts, turning a little farther inward than usual, taking extra time for personal thought, reflection, and celebration.[C] Instead of reaching for united adoration, or insights to give and receive from others, we must reach deeper for Jesus himself, and commune in our spirits with him.
Second, we will need to find quieter, symbolic embodiments of big ideas and exciting customs… Almost as if instead of giving my loved one a whole basket of chocolate like usual, I tucked a single delectable piece into his pocket. Instead of trying to force or recreate our long-standing traditions (which might be more sad than good, or feel like cheap substitutes by comparison,)[D] let’s take a close look into the heart of them for a small, special piece we can bring home. What do we value about our usual celebrations, and why? [E]
Third, we will need to accept the strangeness, and even enjoy it, like shipwrecked mariners celebrating a token Thanksgiving with a roasted
turkey parrot and a pumpkin pie mango cut into the shape of a pie. They may be far from home, but they’re staying American. Remembering who they are.
We will likely never have an Easter like this one again, and someday future generations will want us to recall the time we could not go to church on Easter Sunday![F] We are in unfamiliar territory, working with limited means. Let’s break out the coconuts.
Fourth, we will need to remember that Jesus has not changed, and his Resurrection power is alive and well. Nothing can alter that. We are well able to worship him, to be undone before his glory, to experience his supernatural power in our daily lives… Just like before. The Holy Spirit connects us to the Father, to the Son Jesus, and to all the people of God.
“So, this year I’ll probably make dinner, not invite anyone, not do the eggs (haven’t done those in many, many years)… Not physically go to church. This is a season of not. Then again, it’s a season for great rejoicing in our Lord. He is with us. Christians were made for hard because we have and know the Creator of the universe, the Loving God of humanity and all the earth.”[G]Ellen Gracie
Below, I have compiled a list of practical ideas my friends and family shared for celebrating this Easter from home. I have paraphrased freely, but the ideas are theirs. Here’s a printable of the list for convenience sake. I hope you find it as helpful and hopeful as I did.
My love to all, and wishes for health, strength, and joy.
Easter Ideas 2020
- Read prophetic Scriptures about Jesus’ passion, and paraphrase them in your own words. (JC)
- Listen to portions of Handel’s Messiah. (JC) (KA) On Sunday morning, listen to the Hallelujah Chorus performed at Macy’s court in Philadelphia. (Shari’s note: Here’s my personal favorite flash mob performance of the Messiah, in a food court.)
- For the children, keep the traditions you can: an egg hunt, a mercy garden, a special brunch even if you can’t go out for a Cracker Barrel breakfast. On Easter morning, put special treats at the children’s places at the table. (AC)
- Read the portions of the Gospels that correspond to Holy Week – read from your own Bible, listen with audio Bible, or enjoy dramatized recordings. (JC) (SL) (KA)
- Wear the pretty Easter dress anyway. (KA)
- Fill your week with songs of Jesus’ suffering and death as a way of drawing your heart toward gratitude. (SL)
- For children, create a web in the living room, using string looped around various items (doorknobs, lamp bases, etc.) leading to small gifts to be found (mostly to keep them interested) until they finally come to the basket. This web can be elaborately crisscrossed, requiring some agility to participate in. (EG)
- Spend Friday evening in quietness, meditating on the Gospel accounts of the crucifixion. (JC)
- Set aside time to create something, like a watercolor painting, to depict Easter… and maybe specifically to remember the Covid-19 Easter. (KA)
- Find a new choir to listen to online. Try Tenebrae Choir or the David Wesley Virtual Choir. (SZ)
- Cook a simpler ham dinner. Make those homemade dinner rolls, clover leaf if you can. (EG)
- Open the door of your garage on Sunday and play the Messiah wide open. (JC)
- Enjoy Sight & Sound Theaters free streaming of the JESUS movie on Easter weekend. (Hat tip to my friend Laura Lehman for this info.)
- Read the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection from a children’s book like the Jesus Storybook Bible, spending extra time looking at the illustrations. Write down how you feel while you read the story, what stands out to you, how Jesus’ resurrection makes the difference in your life. (KA)
- Set a timer for each hour of the day. Do a special activity whenever the timer rings – treats or games, prayer and songs, or a tickling festival for toddlers on the living room floor. (SZ)
- Bring in bright flowers for the table and enjoy color that way, instead of in everyone’s lovely clothes. (KA)
- Listen through St. John’s passion, by Bach. (JN)
- Instead of Easter brunch at church, choose one special drink and food to make and eat on Easter morning. Call someone you love most and ask what she’s making. (KA)
- On Friday, tell your children the story of Jesus’ crucifixion, and hang up a picture of a cross, or crown of thorns. Cover the picture with a sheet, and privately replace it with a picture of Jesus’ resurrection, revealing that to your children on Sunday morning. (JN)
- Learn to play an Easter hymn on your instrument (piano, guitar), and reflect on the lyrics. (KA)
- Make your own donuts – from scratch, or simply from refrigerated buttermilk biscuits. (AC) (JN) Or buy ahead from your favorite donut shop, and freeze until Sunday morning. (Thanks to my friend Carla Zehr for that idea.)
- Have a sunrise service with your own family in your own backyard, and then come in for cinnamon rolls and coffee. (Blog reader MW.)
With big thanks to John Coblentz, Kayleen Atkinson, Shelia Lehman, Jean Nisley, Ellen Gracie, and Josh & April Coblentz for their thoughtful ideas.
[A] This description may not be strictly accurate. Was it Aunt Docia’s dress that had the buttons? One of them Wisconsin gals.
[C] Multiple people stated these concepts, but my friend Kayleen Atkinson said them most clearly. I am using her words here.
[D] My friend Shelia Lehman.
[E] Kayleen again. If there is anything wise in this paragraph, it’s from her. Except for the input from Shelia, which is also wise. This is a wisdom mashup.
[F] Shelia again.
[G] My friend Ellen Gracie.