I've had some interest from friends about a family tradition we've been practicing for five years now.
It all started when my oldest daughter was about seven.
We noticed that as Easter approached the conversation was constantly about dying eggs, hiding eggs, chocolate bunnies, real bunnies, fluffy chicks and new dresses. When I talked about Jesus she would nod and quickly return to her real concern- hunting for candy hidden inside little plastic eggs.
Hunting for candy is great. I fully support it. I wish our world was more like Willy Wonka and we could just go around licking trees. But candy doesn't sustain you. It doesn't give you hope. It doesn't make you hold on when you've lost the strength to hold on. It doesn't love you, or help you or teach you. Only the Lord does all of that.
So we decided not to let anything hijack Easter- not even adorable baby chickens and lop-eared rabbits.
(Or rabbits who are apparently minions of the underworld like this one- seriously, we only took this picture because we found this bunny equally horrifying and hilarious.)
Loving the tradition and holiness of Passover practiced by our Jewish friends, I decided to start a tradition to help us remember the life and mission of Jesus Christ.
(Don't worry- we still do eggs and bunnies.
On Saturday we celebrate Spring and flowers and new dresses and baby animals. We celebrate our heads off.)
And on Sunday we wake up in an attitude of awe and reverence. We go to church, we pray and we talk as a family about the miracle of the day.
When evening begins to fall we prepare for our Easter Feast.
We begin by having each member of the family wash another member's feet. We speak of the dusty roads of Jerusalem, the sandals, the friendship between Jesus and his apostles, and how difficult it must have been for them to watch Him kneel before them.
We enter quietly into our sun room where everything is set with white dishes and plates. We light candles and take our seats. Our entire meal consists only of foods mentioned in the Bible. As we eat we take turns discussing each items on our plate, its meaning, symbolism or the stories where it appears.
So this is our menu and the references we discuss concerning each dish:
Fish: The fisher of men, the fish overflowing the nets, the fish with the coin in its mouth, the two fishes multiplied to feed over 5,000, the fish and honeycomb the resurrected Lord ate with his apostles.
Loaf of rustic bread: the bread of life, the bread of the first sacrament, the bread multiplied to feed over 5,000.
Flatbread (unleavened bread): the flight of the Children of Israel out of Egypt, the passover
Olive oil: The Garden of Gethsemane (an olive vineyard), the olive branch of peace, the olive branch of promise for Noah, the parable of the olive vineyard, the oil of anointing
Vinegar: The sponge they offered to Jesus when he thirsted on the cross
Water: The living water, the Samaritan woman at the well, the pool of Bethesda, the Jordan River, the turning of water into wine, walking on water, calming the waves of the storm
Grape Juice (to signify wine): The first sacrament, the first miracle (the turning of water into wine), the grapes of wrath, the fruits of the spirit
Figs: The story of the withered fig tree where Jesus instructs Peter to believe.
Salt: The salt of the earth
Bitter herbs: the bitterness of Israel's enslavement, the spices brought to Jesus as a baby, the spices used to bury him
Two small birds: The parable of the hen gathering her chickens, the offering of Joseph and Mary at the temple when Jesus was born, the promise that God knows every sparrow and we are much more to Him than birds
Corn: The story of the apostles picking corn on the Sabbath day as they passed through a field
Tabbouleh (wheat salad): The parable of the wheat and the tares, the field is white and ready to harvest
It is something that has given Easter very special and personal significance to our family. It has come to be one of our favorite family times together, despite the lack of sugar and games. This year as I listened to my girls tell their favorite stories of Jesus, as they interrupted each other with their favorite details, and held up their waving hands, desperate to say what they know, I felt immense gratitude for being their mother and for the precious gift of being able to teach them that they are Children of God. I am thankful to know of God's love and be able to teach them the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.