Easter Traditions

Christ is Risen!  As March begins, the weather warms, the flowers start to bloom, and it feels like this year is really flying by. Easter is just around the corner, and with the lenten season well underway, Christ’s love, sacrifice, and suffering is on our hearts and minds. In such a diverse Christian world, exactly how we celebrate Easter can look vastly different. I asked four current Templeton students to share more about what Easter means to them, both in their respective traditions and within their families and communities.

Annika Pickard is a Sophomore in the Honors College, and she comes from a non-denominational faith background. For Anni, one of the biggest images that comes to mind when she thinks about Easter is “light overcoming darkness.” Anni says that it is important to think about the whole Easter story: both the light and celebration and darkness and death. “The nature of Christ’s resurrection shows that in order to be resurrected, you need to start with some kind of darkness,” she says. The darkness that comes before the light reminds Anni of her own journey with mental health and her journey with Christ. Anni’s church celebrates a Tenebrae service on Good Friday: a service that walks through the events leading up to the crucifixion as the lighting progressively gets darker and darker by extinguishing candles. This contrasted with the joy of Easter Sunday service brings attention to the light versus darkness idea even more. Anni also celebrates with her family on Saturday; baking special Polish bread called Bobka that “rises like Christ.”

Sarah Meldrum is a Junior in Templeton and comes from a Catholic background. For Sarah, the season of Lent is important because it prepares her mind, heart, and soul for the coming celebration of Easter. However, “you are expected to not only give something up for Lent, but to increase prayer,” Sarah says. “The time spent fasting should be replaced with time spent in prayer and devotion.” For her, the observance of Lent makes the joy of Easter so much more meaningful. In addition to attending Easter Mass, Sarah and her whole family go over to her cousins’ house to celebrate. “It’s really wonderful,” she says. “My cousins make homemade gnocchi as part of our traditional Easter meal.” Sarah remarks about how much fun it is to see everyone in the same place at the same time.

Ethan Muldoon is a Freshman in the Honors College, also from a Catholic background. Similarly to Sarah, Ethan also emphasizes the importance of Lent in preparation for the celebration of Easter. “The relief from the weight of lent makes Easter mean so much more,” he says. Ethan’s family attends the Saturday night Vigil Mass rather than the Sunday Mass. Afterwards, many people stay up and spend the rest of the night celebrating and feasting. Ethan finds a lot of joy in the celebration of the Octave of Easter—eight days of continued celebration after Easter Sunday. The observance of Lent and celebration of the Octave “has led to tremendous growth in my faith,” he says. After getting some rest Sunday morning, Ethan enjoys spending the day with his family and enjoying the spring weather.

Abigail Laird is a Sophomore in THC. As an Eastern Orthodox Christian, Abby celebrates Easter—Pascha, as the Orthodox call it—on a different date than western Christians. For Abby, Pascha is the center and highlight of the year. Similar to the Catholic tradition, Pascha marks the end of the forty-day lenten season and the beginning of a fifty-day period of celebration full of feasts and rejoicing. The actual Pascha service begins late Saturday night in somber darkness. The church then processes around the church outside. At midnight, the priest bangs on the door and the doors open, revealing a church full of light and energetic celebration. The church sings “Christ is Risen” in many different languages—a huge contrast from the darkness of before. For Abby, Easter is in the traditions.  “Community, excitement, and celebration is important after all the hard work of Lent,” she says.

There is so much diversity within the larger Christian tradition, especially when it comes to holidays. No matter how you may celebrate it, Easter is certainly one of the most important Christian holidays. Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection is our hope and joy as Christians; may we remember this amidst the distractions and to-dos of our daily lives. Indeed, He is Risen!