Easter Traditions

Back home Easter was nearly as big a holiday as Christmas. I was quite shocked when first moving to Utah to attend BYU at just how marginalized Easter was here. Part of that I figured was due to it typically coming near finals when no student had a lot of free time. Part was Conference Weekend so often falling on or near Easter. Once I graduated I realized that wasn’t the cause at all.

I still can’t quite understand why Easter is so minor in Utah. It’s not even a holiday! Schools could put spring break the week of Easter but rarely do. (Ours was last week) There are activities of course such as easter egg hunts. But by and large it doesn’t quite have the emphasis that Christmas does. While I love Christmas this seems quite wrong. After all while Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ, Easter commemorates the act Christ came to do. It was so important that prior to his coming the Law of Moses made it the most important day of the Jewish calendar: the Day of Atonement.

What I thought I’d do is list a few family activities we engage in. Both the fun and perhaps more secular kind as well as the religious. Please chime in with your own.

1. Easter egg hunt. OK, how could I not add this? This one is much easier when you don’t have 9:00 AM church of course. Because we were tied to the kids blood sugars getting all out of whack from eating too much candy we started putting coins in many of the eggs. I’ll confess Easter morning is nearly as much fun for me as Christmas morning is. The children awake to find eggs hidden throughout the house and have to find them.

2. Easter egg rolls. Hard boiled eggs are a must here. Each child gets a stick to push the egg and have to get it to the finish line.

3. Spring clothing. It’s an odd tradition, but usually we buy the kids new spring dresses and clothes for our son. If we remember to wash them first they can wear their new clothes to Church that day.

4. Handle’s Messiah. A classic and just makes Easter for me. I plan on having it blaring during the egg hunt.

5. Atonement Scriptures. I don’t always use the same scriptures. This year I plan on reading (haven’t decided the order) D&C 19:15-20, Luke 23, and Mosiah 15:1-12. We’ll probably read them as we color easter eggs.

6. Videos. The Church has some great ones we’ll do with the scriptures. Jesus is Scourged and Crucified and The Savior Suffers in Gethsemane

7. Easter Egg Tree. I usually get a small set of sticks (pussy-willows are best but hard to find here in Utah) and make a tree out of them we put in the middle of the dining room table. We then hollow out eggs (making a German Pancake feast), dye them and decorate them. When dry we put ribbon in them and hang them from the tree. It’s sort of an Easter version of the Christmas tree.

Please let me know what you do. We’re doing the scripture reading and Easter tree tonight as an early Family Home Evening. (Note the picture isn’t my tree but one I found on Pinterest – pussy willows were much more common for Easter back in Nova Scotia but are hard to find here)

32 comments for “Easter Traditions

  1. I sure wish our ward did an Easter program. Instead the speakers have been assigned the topic of “following the living prophets.” Church HQ devoted significant resources to put together a week of #PrinceOfPeace videos. I’m supposed to share that with my neighbors to invite them to what? Sing “We Thank Thee O God For a Prophet”? Last Easter we had a high council speaker ramble overtime on “Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon.”

    I am so disappointed with worship options that this TBM approached my evangelical neighbor about attending their worship services this Sunday. My wife says the other ward in the building will have some kind of an Easter themed program, so we’ll probably take that option.

    Which is just a long way of saying, Yes, I agree that Mormons generally do a poor job of celebrating Easter.

  2. Passover Seder. Remember you ancestors’ sacrifices for their faith on Saturday, celebrate the Savior’s atonement on Sunday.

  3. We host an annual flashlight Easter Egg Hunt in our community (it’s tonight). It’s a great way to get the members together and we also invite the missionaries and neighbors so it’s also our chance as an introverted family to “do missionary work” though really it’s more an effort to just get to know our neighbors better. In the 5 years we have done this, it’s grown from 13 kids to 91 kids.

    We also do the Resurrection Eggs activity during the week of Easter.

    I also make time that week to read Rudyard Kiplings “The Gardener” during Easter week as I love that short story.

    I have lived in several Asian cities over the years. ALL of them celebrate Good Friday. The temple is closed on Good Friday in these cities. Yet in our so-called Christian nation, it’s just another day. And this year we have Stake Conference on Easter Sunday. Boo.

    I’m officially jealous of the Catholic Lent season.

  4. We always decorate for Easter. It isn’t easy to decorate “religiously” because most of what is in the store is bunnies & eggs, but we were determined, & have built a small store of things that work over the years. There is a large white ceramic reclining lamb (bought from a thrift store) on the top of the piano, in the middle. On the left side of the piano top, there is a green bud vase full of daffodils, & another small reclining ceramic lamb with a slightly different design, in brown. Completing that grouping is a small dark green votive candleholder(also from a thrift store). On the other end of the piano top is a green taper candle in a clear glass base, behind a picture of the Savior riding the donkey on Palm Sunday, in one of the plastic picture holders (this one is gold toned). Both the picture & the holder were from Deseret Book years ago & were quite inexpensive. This is what you see as you enter our front door.

    In another location, there is a picture of the risen Lord appearing to Mary in the garden, on another holder. Sometimes there is a small white hobnail vase full of grape hyacinths from the border in front of that picture, if the weather cooperates.

    More lambs ( all from thrift stores) are scattered through our home, especially on a three cornered cupboard by the kitchen. One is nested in some brown grass on top of a green footed cake plate on top of the buffet where the china is stored, & more are on the bookshelves in the family room.

    When our children were growing up, we had many FHE lessons on Christ as “The Lamb”. Several years, we tried making a lamb cake, with a special cake pan, but we were never successful in getting the cake to hold together – and a lamb cake broken in pieces doesn’t help much with the “perfect lamb” lesson!

    We had Easter egg hunts in the backyard, or in the house if the weather was not cooperating.

    Several years we had a Seder, but it never replaced Easter dinner.

    Once when our daughter was in Seminary, she took a set of triplet goat kids to class as part of a lesson. She pointed out they were baby goats, not lambs, but asked her class to determine which one would be acceptable as a sacrifice, if they were lambs. The firstborn lamb was a buckling, but had a bum leg. The doeling was kid #2, and the perfect little buckling was kid #3. The class discussion was interesting.

    Easter morning, we always read the scriptural account, usually over breakfast of OJ and cinnamon rolls. Church having anything to do with Easter was usually hit or miss. Some years the topic was Easter, but most years it was not. Palm Sunday was never acknowledged. It was quite a change from my Protestant youth, where the palm frond that filled the church on Palm Sunday gave way to Easter lilies for the sunrise service.

  5. We do really miss out and I don’t understand it. Even when GC landed on Easter in 2015 it was a disaster. President Monson spoke about TEMPLES!!! With the world watching on Easter morning and we get temples?!?!?!?!? The next few talks were equally disastrous for an Easter morning, at least to a believing Christian. The talks were actually standard, good GC talks but missed the mark on Easter morning.

  6. I agree that we should put more effort into recognizing the death and resurrection of Jesus; yet I don’t understand how Easter egg hunts or trees or Easter egg anything does this. Will someone explain it to me?

  7. Our branch held a musical fireside on Palm Sunday this year. There will need to be some tweaking in years to come if this turns into an annual tradition, but overall I thought it was a wonderful way to begin the season. In my own family, we’ve done various things over the years. Some years are more “full” than others. Sometimes we’ve observed Palm Sunday with our children through at-home reenactments of the Triumphal Entry, complete with homemade paper palm leaves. We always try to have a special Easter-related family home evening. Our kids favorite tradition, which is going on about 9 years now, is our annual Jerusalem Dinner. We try to do this either on Thursday night in remembrance of the last supper or on Saturday night. We eat typical foods from Jesus’ time. We eat sitting or lying on the floor, Roman style. All the food is served in communal style with no plates or utensils, using pita bread to dish up portions. We have felt that our children were not ready for a more formal Passover seder type meal (though I did try that last year)… this dinner is more of a “fun” meal and one of our kids’ favorite traditions. One thing that we did last year and this year is to plant a Resurrection Garden with the children. There are examples online if you google. We took a wide terra cotta dish like the kind you put under a potted plant. We used clay to make a cave underneath a hill. We filled the dish with potting soil and mounded it around the cave and hill. We made a path up the hill with flat small stones, then planted grass seed. The kids watered it every day, and it grew to cover the garden with short green grass. The kids made three crosses of small twigs and put them on the hill. On Good Friday evening, we shut up the “tomb” by placing a rock across the cave entrance as we talked about the death and burial of Christ. The tomb stayed sealed until Easter morning when the kids woke up to find the stone gone and the entire garden ablaze with flowers. (I simply cut up a bouquet from the grocery store and place the smaller flowers into the potting soil.) This was a very fun and hands-on way to include our younger children in the wonder that is Easter.

    We do all the fun Easter egg stuff too. Easter eggs are symbolic of new life, re-birth, and the resurrection. There are many articles online that discuss this. I do think that in order for this symbolism to be known and meaningful to our children, we have to consciously teach it.

  8. Oh, and for myself as an adult–I try to make it a point to read the scriptural verses associated with each day of the last week of the Savior’s life and to sing or listen to appropriate music related to Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter.

  9. We decided to do the egg coloring over two days as we couldn’t figure out what to do with all the eggs. The Church videos weren’t quite as good as I thought they might. They’re very slow paced and the kids didn’t quite understand what was going on. But we had that classic painting of Jesus in Gethsemene downstairs so they got that part. Still we did our Easter explaining. Thus far no luck finding pussy-willows. So I might just get some random branches of something.

    Randy, the pagan stuff for easter as with the pagan stuff for Christmas is just about fun for the kids. Just like they love Halloween but don’t understand the religious background (and with Halloween there’s no real need to). It’s balancing the fun with the religious stuff.

    Matthew. Doh. My bad.

    RB. Yeah if they’re going to put GC on Easter they should really have more of an Easter theme. Looking at how other religions do it they get it a bit better than we do. I almost wish they’d have the fall GC be all the other themes and have spring GC always be on Easter and always be explicitly Christ themed. But on the other hand I can’t complain about good talks and there were several last week.

  10. Clark & Randy, in the early Church, eggs that were dyed red were considered a representation of the resurrection, as new life. Keep in mind that under Roman rule, being a Christian could get you killed, so some things were symbolic, like the ichtheus, or fish, as a symbol of Christ. Many Protestant churches still teach those things in the confirmation classes. Easter eggs started out as part of the pagan celebration for a goddess, but have come to mean other things to other people. “Bread & water” is considered a sparse diet by many, but when we are taking the Sacrament, those symbols have a far different meaning.

  11. Not sure how talking about temples isn’t an Easter topic, but whatev. And in the spirit of Matthew73 above, “clothes.” “Cloths” is something else. We’ll be having a family Easter basket hunt on Saturday and because of the vagaries of GC and other local meetings, stake conference on Easter. Which I hope our stake leadership has taken into account. Most of the quibbles here are, it seems to me, failures on the part of the ward (or stake) councils who (1) ought to be looking at a calendar when they’re discussing who should speak and on what topic and (2) ought to be prayerfully considering what their ward needs to hear–on Easter. Also, whoever ends up asking speakers should make it plain that it’s Easter and that their topic should intertwine with the commemoration. It’s one thing to be “peculiar” and quite another to be so antiestablishment that you throw out all of the good Christian traditions.

  12. And I thought our ward was low effort. Most of the time they assemble some type of Easter program which mostly consists of the (rare) ward choir singing a song and a passing reference to Easter. But not a single flower, greenery etc in our chapel at Easter or Christmas. It embarrasses me especially when we have investigators that we put so little effort into these special times of year.

  13. The last couple of years I have attended sunrise Easter services at a Protestant church. I have an LDS friend who I recently learned is the organist at another Protestant church, and I will attend sunrise services there this Easter..

  14. It’s too late to do so this year, but those of you whose wards are a little lackluster it would help to mention something to the Bishop in early February. Mention that you might have a non-member coming and they wanted to see how we treat Easter.

  15. We Mormons are really bad at Easter. This year I’m really annoyed because Stake Conference is on Easter. I’m sure some clerk scheduled it a year ago and didn’t check, but come on. And my mom is in the choir, and they aren’t singing Easter hymns (OK, they are doing a sacrament hymn though). We had no Easter hymns or talks last week in church. So I’m taking my daughter to a Mass early tomorrow morning, before the conference. Mom might come too.

    I do hot cross buns on Good Friday, but have rarely done egg hunts. I would like to do more properly religious stuff around Easter, but aside from attending other people’s church services, am not sure what.

  16. My family is somewhat spread out, with the closest ones living 2-3 hours away, one at 12-13 hours & the other clear across the country. If we lived closer, we would probably attend whichever ward had an Easter theme on Easter, all together, since that would boost the numbers. I am wondering if checking with friends & going to a ward with an Easter theme might be an effective way to change the attitude, by using the attendance numbers.

  17. I have an Easter “nativity-type” display. Fontanini makes a life of Christ series which shoe-horns perfectly with their more well known nativity set, so several of my village women do double duty at Easter, approaching the tomb with the risen Lord. This comes out at the beginning of the season with Lent.

    We have celebrated a seder meal for almost 20 years. It has become something my children look forward to all year, a mix of story and faith, silliness and hymns. The week before Good Friday is a flurry of prep, of food and house cleaning, of reading the story and thinking about how I want to teach it to my children and guests this year. The 3500 year old tradition is amazingly flexible and meaningful.

    Saturday morning is for the Easter Bunny- this is when chocolate happens. It is funny and silly and no one goes to church sticky.

    Sunday is for church. The service is hit and miss for how it supports the season but I do my best as organist to help.

  18. I appreciate your comment about telling your bishop you have a nonmember coming and maybe the ward should do something special for easter. But why do we have to do that? We should do something special for easter every year. After all, as Paul said, take away the resurrection and there is no Christianity.

  19. I agree with many of the comments here. Things have changed greatly over the past decades and I really miss the celebration that Easter used to be, even in Mormon wards in Utah & Idaho. It seemed that there was always lots of music, scripture readings of the Easter story, and Easter Lilies or other flowers to celebrate the day.

    Although we had a some excellent talks in Sacrament Mtg today on the Atonement along with a lovely solo musical rendition of “His Hands”, I did miss hearing the Easter story from the scriptures, more congregational singing, and flowers (borrowed lilies anyone?) of any kind to make it feel like a celebratory event.

    As for at home activities, when the children were small we always did the Easter baskets, egg hunts, etc. on Saturday and kept the Sunday focus on the Risen Christ.

  20. Our sacrament talks yesterday were inherently Easter oriented. We also had a special Easter number by the primary and then an other by a ward member singing. I also noticed a lot more Easter events in the community than I’d seen in prior years.

    Aaron, whether we should have to do something, we’re all in this together. To me part of sustaining someone in their stewardship is trying to help them. This is helping them. We’re all weak relying on the grace of God. Knowing how much is involved in being a bishop or Stake President (although thankfully not a call I’ve ever had to deal with – just a few times as councilor in Elders Quorum Presidency) I can easily see this as being unintentional by people often overwhelmed with their responsibility. Looking at this through an eye of charity is almost always the right thing to do. Further God’s grace is often manifest by God inspiring us to act in small ways on our own.

  21. My wife and I were passing through St. George, Utah on Easter and dropped in on a random ward sacrament meeting. One of the most beautiful and original all-music Easter programs (with brief commentaries between the musical piece) that we had ever attended. Kudos to the (whatever) 11th Ward!

  22. Low-key Easter observations are somewhat of an east/west thing in the U.S. Of eleven states that have legal Good Friday holidays, ten are in the east if you count North Dakota and Louisiana as “east.” Only Hawaii is in the west. When we moved from Utah to the west coast several years ago, we found Easter even more low-key than in Utah, with some local congregations of various faiths excepted, of course.

  23. I think he really meant “Handle’s Messiah”

    Goes with “Grate Expectations” by Edmund Wells and “Ethel the Aardvark goes Quantity Surveying”

  24. I’ve never really understood holidays in general. Easter is one of the weirdest, since we put it on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox. I’m not surprised when conferences end up at the same time – who knows when Easter is next year, without looking it up? I think we should make our own Holiday of April 6, and celebrate both Christmas and Easter then, since that’s when we believe everything happened.

    I’ve tried making lamb, which was incredibly hard to find in Utah and turned out too tough to even make into hash. I’ve made a braided egg bread as a treat for my primary kids and had a hard time explaining the whole egg thing.

    Eggs and rabbits, spring, fertility, etc. Old goddesses Oestara and Ishtar (who went to the underworld to resurrect Tammuz). Word root for estrogen.

    History is messy. Any excuse for a party, I guess.

  25. I’ll confess I absolutely *love* holidays. I feel bad that the past few years I’ve just been so busy I couldn’t do as much with my kids with them as I’d have liked. (Which isn’t to say we didn’t do a lot – just that I wish I had time for far more crafts) I think holidays are a fantastic way to signify about religion in a way a bit stronger than church but also to just have a great time as a family. A lot of my most treasured memories as a kid are from holidays like Halloween, Easter or Christmas. (No real fond arbor day memories beyond a boy scout trip planting trees)

    Lamb is tricky to cook. Smith’s occasionally will have good lamb. The best place from lamb is in Springville Meats IMO. My wife doesn’t like lamb though so I usually only get to eat it when going to Bombay House. Lamb Saag is my favorite.

    To the Messiah, I meant to handle it on my iPhone. LOL.

    Bob, yes I agree this is less a Mormon thing than a regional thing. I think it was big back home because the area was overwhelmingly Anglican. My guess, perhaps wrong, is that the places with a lot of Easter celebrations are places with a lot of high church emphasis like Anglican/Episcopalian or Catholicism. Places where the religion was more low church oriented and much more minimalistic likely have more reserved holidays. I suspect Christmas would be more reserved in those places too were it not for the overwhelming commercialization of Christmas the past 50 years. While they’ve tried with Easter it’s just not at remotely the same degree as Halloween or Christmas. Mormonism with its connection to Campbellism and other low church traditions has that minimalist tendencies despite our temple ceremonies being much more high church like.

    Louisiana has a very large Catholic population and that ends bound up in the tradition from the French and Spanish eras there. So I think that is why it celebrates Easter in a big way. Indeed the biggest festival, Mardi Gras, is tied to lent which is tied to Easter.

  26. Frank, Since it’s by no means clear Mormon doctrine holds April 6 to be Jesus’ birthdate (see http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700094707/What-was-the-real-date-of-Jesus-birth.html) and since there was no “April” in Israel in the relevant possible birth years and since I can find none of the April 6 believers explaining what they mean in view of the differences between the Gregorian and Julian calendars or the refinements of the leap year rules of the Gregorian calendar at various times (on the calendars, see, e.g. http://libguides.ctstatelibrary.org/hg/colonialresearch/calendar), I have given up on Elder Talmage’s April 6 theory and prefer celebrating Easter as measured from the Jewish passover that it can clearly be tied to. I often wish we made a bigger deal of Easter in our Church, but this year in my ward it worked out fine.

  27. My daughter and I enjoyed the Mass, and the stake conference was really quite Eastery. No complaints. (OK, except for the rather entertaining fact that one speaker sounded an awful lot like Kermit the Frog.)

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