For believers, the holiest week of the year is upon us: the great celebration of our Lord’s passion and resurrection. While it’s wonderful to mark Easter with fun egg hunts and festive chocolate egg-filled baskets for the kids, there are a multitude of other Christian traditions and practices that believers of all ages can partake in to deepen our faith and enrich our experience as we celebrate “Holy Week” and consider Jesus’ last week on earth including His teachings in the temple, the Last Supper, His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, His arrest, trial, torture, and crucifixion, and His glorious rising from the grave.
1. Thursday: Commemorating the Last Supper
As recounted in the gospels, Jesus partook in the traditional Jewish Passover meal with His disciples on the night before He was crucified—which has become known as the Lord’s Supper or the Last Supper. In the Jewish custom, it is known as a Seder (or Passover) meal. It has since become a tradition in the Christian church to celebrate a symbolic Seder meal on Thursday night that can consist of wine, bitter herbs (such as parsley), salt water, unleavened matzah bread, hardboiled egg, and lamb (or other elements depending on the tradition).
Another tradition is washing the feet of our loved ones, just as Christ washed the feet of His disciples (John 13:1-20). We can also sacrifice some sleep on Thursday night and spend some quality time in prayer in order to “keep watch” as Christ did when He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46).
2. Friday: Remembering the Goodness of Christ’s Sacrifice
It may seem somewhat ironic to refer to the Friday before Easter as “Good Friday” given that it is the day Christ suffered a brutal crucifixion at the hands of sinners. However, “Good Friday” is indeed good because of the profound goodness of Christ’s victory over sin and death by means of His crucifixion and death on this day, culminating in His Resurrection on Easter. The gospels tell us that Christ was nailed to the cross between nine o’clock and noon and that He died around three o’clock. Therefore, Christians can set aside the time of noon to three for special prayer and meditation on the passion and death of Christ. We might also consider fasting as a tangible way to reflect on Christ’s sacrifice.
Some other ways we can observe Good Friday might be to take a long walk and meditate on Jesus’ road to Calvary. We could also watch a film adaptation of the passion narrative such as The Passion of the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, Risen, or another well-produced movie to enter into the final hours of Jesus’ earthly life more fully.
For younger children, we can fill plastic Easter eggs with symbols of Christ’s passion and resurrection, such as a cross, nails, a stone, and other related items. When they open them, we can give age-appropriate explanations on how each symbol was part of the extent to which Jesus loved us by suffering, dying, and rising for us.
3. Saturday: Preparing for the Lord’s Rising
Historically, the Saturday before Easter has been referred to as “Silent Saturday.” As we await Christ’s Resurrection, we can engage in edifying activities to prepare our hearts for Easter. One idea is to create a traditional Polish Easter basket as a gift for your pastor. Each item in the basket is symbolic of different attributes of God. For example, eggs symbolize new life and Christ’s rising from the grave, sausage symbolizes God’s favor and generosity, ham symbolizes joy and abundance, a candle represents the light of Christ, and more.
A way to inspire our kids when they are painting Easter eggs could be to have them look at pictures of the traditional European art of painting eggs with intricate designs and Christian symbols.
Another fun activity to do with children is to make a Resurrection Garden. This consists of a large garden pot that can be transformed into a mini “garden” that symbolizes Calvary and Christ’s tomb using potting soil, rocks, moss, three homemade wood crosses, and more.
4. Sunday: The Resurrection of Our Lord
As we celebrate the glorious day on which Christ defeated death and saved us from our sins—the most consequential day in human history—we can enhance our celebration in a number of ways. One idea that may especially appeal to families is adding food to our Easter feasts that is rich in symbolism, such as Resurrection Rolls. These are made by stuffing crescent rolls with marshmallows, and when they are done baking, the marshmallow inside disappears, and you are left with a delicious “empty tomb.”
Adding candles to your Easter table is especially appropriate as we celebrate the light of Christ’s resurrected body. Singing traditional Easter hymns is another great way to revel in and truly celebrate the spirit of Easter.
Another idea is to make a traditional Easter wreath and hang it on your front door. The symbolism consists of (among other things) the wreath itself representing the crown of thorns, a purple ribbon representing royalty and the robe placed over Christ’s shoulders during His mock trial, a nail representing His crucifixion, grapes representing the blood He shed, and a lily representing the new life of the risen Christ.
Finally, in addition to attending an Easter morning worship service, it may be helpful to set aside some time to read the Bible’s account of the resurrection. The story of Jesus’ resurrection is told in Matthew 28:1-15, Mark 16:1-13, Luke 24:1-12, and John 20:1-29. It is extremely encouraging to read the gospel accounts themselves, and Christians do well to ponder these glorious passages on Resurrection Sunday.
These are just a few ideas about how to enrich your Easter celebration among the multitude of traditions that have sprung up over the last two millennia since Jesus’ resurrection. No matter how you and your loved ones choose to commemorate Easter, the most important thing is to truly celebrate it in order to stir in our souls once again the hope that is in all of us as believers—that Jesus burst into our fallen world and redeemed it in the most astonishing of ways, conquering sin and death so that we might be forgiven our sin and reconciled to God the Father. It’s a message that our darkened world needs to hear now more than ever.