Easter has always been a big deal in my family. My parents always did things to make it special. I think that the first real tension that I had with my parents was about Easter. I was taking dance classes at the time and our group was supposed to be participating in the Beach Easter parade on Easter morning. I was determined to go and my parents, while understanding of my desperation to do it, we equally adamant that Easter was for church and family. They tried to arrange special things so that I wouldn't be so aware of missing the parade as much but it was one of the few times that I remember them being unwilling to give in to me on something I really wanted. Mum always got these Easter paper models - we coloured all of the parts of the scene at the tomb and they were cut out and mounted and put on the mantel. It was a big deal on Easter to roll the stone away. We got gifts for Easter and while I think the Easter Bunny did come (we did have Easter baskets and we got a bit of candy), there was always a gift that had some kind of "new life" significance - one year it was a cactus for each of us, another year there was a goldfish and one year we even got hamsters. We never did an egg hunt and we spent a lot of Easter weekend at church, whether at our own or visiting another or doing an Easter vigil walk around the City of Toronto.
When I left home, even when I didn't have a lot of time for church, Easter was always important to me. Once Michael came along, we really committed to it from a more spiritual perspective. We always went to a Maundy Thursday service (for anyone who doesn't know, it is usually a communion service that is a reenactment of the last supper), a Good Friday service (at which I ALWAYS cry), an Easter sunrise service and then "the" Easter morning service. It is always such an emotional roller coaster and I am always glad that we have Easter Monday off to try and collect ourselves before entering back into normal life.
We loved Easter at our old church. Our minister really knew how to make things meaningful. He wasn't the most exciting of preachers and normally, quite frankly, we would leave a service having a tough time remembering what his 40 minute sermon had been about. He had a gift for Easter. The only "pulpit pounders" I ever remember him doing were during Advent and Easter (at Advent, he would rage against people trying to predict the end times and how arrogant it was to claim to be able to see it coming and/or to predict when it would happen when Christ himself had said that he didn't know). One Easter, he shocked everyone when he very loudly announced that if you hadn't travelled the passion route (Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday), you had no right to be there for the joys of Easter. Some people felt that he was crazy because Easter is frequently a time that people who don't regularly worship show up and the last thing they needed to hear was that they had no right to be there. He had a true gift for creating a meaningful Passion week - Maundy Thursday, he had an obsession with reenacting the footwashing when Jesus washed the disciples feet. Every year, he would be determined that we would do it and every year, it would end up that people washed each others' hands because they just felt too uncomfortable with it. (My good friend Bree and I kept saying that we were going to make it a Passion week tradition to go for a pedicure together on the Wednesday before Maundy Thursday). I will never forget the time that on Good Friday, he had a large, rough wooden cross at the front of the church and every one of us had to come forward and hammer in a nail to symbolize that fact that it was our sin that led to the need for the sacrifice. It was incredibly haunting, to sit in the silence and hear nothing but the sound of the hammer. We were all in tears - as Christians, we tend to really focus on the sterile, Sunday school version of events and gloss over the worst of what was actually done on Good Friday (sorry, I am not the type to enjoy the gore of "The Passion of the Christ" and frankly, that would not connect me more to what happened). Then, there were the frigid, outdoor sunrise services, singing in a park in a less-than-stellar neighbourhood in Toronto followed by HUGE breakfasts hosted by our Filipino families. Then, of course, the service full of the best hymns of the Christian year which was made more challenging by our very full bellies). Easter was so special, even if we didn't do many of the things we do to mark Christmas.
This brings me back to how I could like it to be for Pk. Our church doesn't do a Maundy Thursday service at the moment (our church building isn't quite ready for occupancy and we don't have access to the hockey arena and I am not sure whether our minister is "high church" enough to be interested in one) and I can't really take a little one anyway, even if I did find one. Good Friday is a joint service with several other churches. I have to admit, the last few years, Good Friday hasn't been the same. We usually get together with Dh's family and while they are "religious", I wouldn't say that they are very spiritual people (I don't intend that as a criticism just a statement of fact). We often went to church together on Good Friday but the rest of the day was like any other. Easter will be in our new church (although we won't have power yet or be "officially" there - our minister has said that, "we will be having a work party and we might just happen to break into Easter hymns in what will be the sanctuary). I hope that there will be a sunrise service although I know that there won't be a special breakfast - I think one of the older guys from church brought his bbq and did peameal on a bun one year but it just isn't the same.
So, back to it, we are trying to figure out how we will handle Easter in our family. Dh and I have talked about it a lot and I have been doing some research. I think we have decided, for now, that we will try and make it a real family event, starting with Palm Sunday. We are going to get palm branches as a family and use them to decorate. Dh had the great idea of taking Pk to our local park that has a path and getting either palm branches or rose petals from a florist and sprinkling them along the path and having a kind of parade. We will read the Palm Sunday story as a family at dinner. Maundy Thursday is still up in the air. We have kind of debated doing a modified seder. I don't know whether I am up to it but since Pk is still little and rarely sits very long during a meal, I don't think that has to happen this year. We are going to make hot cross buns for Good Friday morning and then Dh and I are going to fast on Good Friday (obviously not something Pk will do). On Saturday, we are going to decorate Easter eggs and prepare food for our big roast lamb feast on Easter. The big thing this year is that we want to start to gather ideas for decorating for Easter and not with little bunnies. I found a few good ideas on some blogs and hope to expand them. Someone posted directions for a wonderful "Names of Jesus" garland that I have made (I will post the link once I figure out the etiquette of that - please let me know, do you have to ask someone before posting a link to their blog?) and I have stumbled across some great recipes. I am also thinking to trying to make Resurrection Eggs (I have also debated buying a set but am thinking that it might be a nice Easter tradition as a family to make a set each year and I have found online directions for that, too). More than anything, I just want Pk to grow up with a sense of the incredible majesty of the gift we have been given and that this is a time for reflection and gratitude.
If anyone has any good decorating or celebrating ideas for the Passion Week, especially with children, I would love to hear them. While we have some beginning thoughts, we don't feel like we have found the true picture yet of how we want things to be and we want this time to be a time to re-focus and to refresh ourselves and our faith walk.