Creative Ways to Celebrate the Easter Octave and Season as a Family
“On the eve of Septuagesima Sunday, the Alleluia was buried. Now it rises out of the tomb... The Alleluia is the heart of the Opus Dei; the song which the Moses of the New Testament sings together with His people after He has passed through the Red Sea of His Death into the glory of His Resurrection.” —Dom Winzen, OSB
Nine years ago, my husband Michael and I received a unique statue of the Resurrected Christ for a wedding present. It was pretty dusty and, clearly, something the giver had kept stashed away in some closet somewhere. But, nine years after our wedding, it's not dusty anymore. It is on our kitchen table, front and center. It's so clean, it even gleams. Throughout the six magnificent weeks of Easter, it sits there, inspiring us to hear the Resurrected Christ calling our names – calling our family to climb out of the soul-slums of selfishness, sin and unmerited fears. It reminds us that there is indeed, a Master of Victory, one who has already made “toast” of Satan, and He is not way up high where He can't be reached – He is our intimate friend, alive in our burning hearts. After all, He's right there on our kitchen table looking at us, is he not?
When we were first married, I started taking the statue out around Easter to entertain our kids. The rule was that they could play with him as long as they wouldn't break him. That was about the extent of what the statue meant to me. But after explaining to my children, year after year, why he is there, and why he looks so glorious, my attitude has changed. After watching his arms, stretched out to the heavens with a gesture of triumph and his white coat shining (that is, with the dust off, of course), and studying him, looking up to His Father with a gaze of confidence, face shining and heart aching from divine joy – year after year – I now take him out to entertain me. He entertains my spirit with Resurrection Joy. And yes, he still entertains the kiddos – and he has yet to be broken. And, dare I say, I think the only thing they will ever break when playing with him is those little twinges of sadness they carry in their young hearts.
Isn't this the goal of practicing family devotions together? To grasp the teachable moments that are so simple yet so telling, to snag them like a good fish and bring them home to the hungering soul? To take those clandestine Catholic traditions and release their power into our domestic churches... to make Almighty God feel so tangible to our children that they will never forget him as long as they live?
In We and Our Children, Mary Reed Newland writes regarding celebrating Easter:
All through the week it is Alleluia. With grace at meals, after prayers, in all of our hearts. The story of Jonas is read. “I give you no sign but the sign of Jonas.” The Paschal Candle burns at family meals. The graces of the season are rich and beautiful, and food and rest and joy and play are sweeter for six weeks of fasting.
As Catholic parents, we can embrace the spirit of Easter jubilation and celebrate new life in so many creative and adventurous ways. This year, why not encourage our children to say “Alleluia!” all throughout the six weeks of Easter (with “inside” voices, and no more than five to ten times a day, depending on how many children we have, of course). Or, when we take our kids out on a walk, we can encourage them to hunt around for signs of new life, like buds, an early sunrise, and dew-drenched, green grass. By baking Poppy-Seed Cake, we can be reminded of the lessons we learned during Lent – that we have thrust the “seeds” of our sins into the earth, that they might die; and its circular shape shows us that the gift of eternal life is being offered to us. Lighting a Home Paschal Candle (one can be purchased from the Leaflet Missal Company) is also a wonderful way to bury precious memories of Easter in the hearts of our children!
In The Year and Our Children, Mary Reed Newland writes:
Easter morning. Alleluia! The Hallel, greatest of Hebrew expressions of praise, together with Jah, the shortened form of Jahve, combine to make this lovely word... the beautiful breakfast table, the delicious Easter bread, the excitement of the Easter egg hunt, and the opening of gifts. It has been so long since we have sung Alleluia after Grace. What a glorious morning! The Paschal Candle is lighted. While we rejoice, it burns with a steady flame. It says, 'I am risen, and I am still with thee. Alleluia!'
My brother-in-law is an immigrant from Poland, and one year his mother gave me some gorgeous place mats to use for Easter supper. It inspired me to have my children decorate and laminate their own place mats this year. They did a fabulous job, turning pieces of plain construction paper into quite the little Easter masterpieces, covered with crooked lamb and donkey stickers, wild-looking drawings of palm branches (that looked like they had been leftover after a hurricane), and endearing Easter crosses and pictures of Jesus.
When I was in the novitiate of the Contemplative Sisters of St. John, our Superior told us that in many ways, it is more difficult for a person to live out the call of Easter glory than the Lenten journey in their lives, because 'glory' is so foreign to human nature. We are so used to encountering pain, sin and suffering, that this is what we are comfortable with. Living out a the graces of the Resurrection calls us to be people we are not used to being. It calls us to something higher that we are not familiar with. But it can be done. And when we do decide to really, finally, just do it, look out! He is alive – let's act like it... this year, not next.
Some helpful resources to turn to when we want to revive Easter and other seasonal and liturgical traditions in our family are:
- A Treasure Chest of Traditions for Catholic Families by Monica McConkey
- A Year with God by Catholic Heritage Curriculum
- The Year and Our Children by Mary Reed Newland
- Various children's books for Easter: The Tale of the Three Trees by Angela Hunt, Little Rose of Sharon by Nan Gurley; and Petook by Caryll Houselander.