It’s April! And that makes me happy. This morning I ran in a long sleeved shirt, which I eventually shed for a tank top — no gloves, no hat. It felt miraculous. Maybe that’s the best way to describe Spring: a miracle.
The sun is fighting its way into the sky between rainstorms, our grass is greening, and just yesterday I saw a boy carrying a branch home from school that was loaded with pussy willows. It was taller than he was, slung over his shoulder like a fishing pole.
My mother’s daffodils began to open today. Dozens more are bobbing their faint yellow heads, ready to fling their petals wide. Over the weekend, I strolled through our local nursery, just to see what blooms they had for sale. And all that color made me happy too.
Are you as relieved as I am that Easter is at the end of April instead of the end of March? It gives the earth time to catch up, thaw her frozen layers. Time to breathe long, rather than racing from one holiday to the next. More time to anticipate Holy Week and prepare.
Many of you have developed some beautiful Easter traditions in your families. I’ve loved hearing about them. And I can’t believe it’s been 8 years now, that we’ve been lighting our Easter lanterns and celebrating Holy Week.
About this time of year, I start getting questions from readers about our Easter traditions, when we do what, how we do our Easter Walk, and so on. So this year, I created a PDF for you to print. It has a brief description of what happened each day of Holy Week, my favorite scripture passages about those events, Bible Videos you can watch, and our traditions/activities for each day.
Since the pdf (above) doesn’t allow for live links, I will include the text from the Guide with active links below. Before we get to that though, three more helps:
1 – This year I’ve been studying from this beautiful study guide compiled by Multiply Goodness. It’s an interfaith collection of thoughts and readings on Jesus’ Resurrection from the viewpoint of those who were closest to Him. You can order it here. It’s designed for a month long study but it’s never too late to start, right?
2 – I taught a lesson to the women in our stake last Easter about the events that occurred during Holy Week. (A “stake” is an arm of our church organized by geographical area.) If you’d like to listen, you can access the audio here.
3 – If you live local, in Salt Lake City, the choir I sing in, Incanta, is presenting an Easter Concert, Beauty for Ashes, the evenings of April 19th and 20th at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, downtown. The venue is gorgeous. And the music is going to be, I think, exquisite. And fun. With some familiar hymns and some pieces you’ve never heard before. The whole concert is about redemption. Our director, Kendra Lowe, who blows my mind with her arrangements, knowledge, and composition on the fly, has composed several pieces. My favorite is to a Christina Rossetti poem, Good Friday. We’ll be singing a few negro spirituals, their will be instrumental accompaniment, organ accompaniment. Please come!! Tix are free. It’s open seating. We do discourage small children, because it’s a long time to sit for littles. But age 8 and up are welcome!
And now. . . all the details on preparing for and celebrating Holy Week. With one quick disclaimer:
I always encourage flexibility as a rule. If something isn’t working, don’t worry about it. Drop it. Shuffle it around. Try again another year.
What is successful in some families, won’t be in others. And that’s okay! I worry when I post things like this that it adds to the pressure parents feel to do what others are doing. These are just ideas/suggestions. Above all, be prayerful about what your family needs. Ask for guidance. Maybe there is a tradition, a discussion, an event to attend, that you will discover, and it will be the perfect fit for your family. God knows you and yours. And He will aide you and provide all you need to come to know His Son, our beautiful Savior. Okay, here we go!
Holy Week Study and Traditions
Palm Sunday — Triumphal Entry
After spending the Sabbath in Bethany with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, Jesus journeyed up the hill to Bethphage where His disciples obtained a donkey, so He could enter Jerusalem “riding upon an ass” – fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy and indication that He would come in peace. Believers spread their garments before him and waved palm branches, shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David, Hosanna in the highest.”
* Read Matthew 21: 1-11 and Luke 19: 35-38
* Watch the Triumphal Entry
* Create an Easter Tree — Cut some branches to bloom inside, put them in a large vase and decorate your Easter Tree with ribbons, egg ornaments (most craft stores have some before spring) and small images of the Savior’s life. You can find lots of art images on the web to print and cut at home.
Monday — Second Cleansing of the Temple
This was three years from the first cleansing when Jesus referred to the temple as “My Father’s house.” The last week of His life He described the temple as, “My house.” Then He healed the blind and lame, and blighted the fig tree – symbolic of Christ’s detest for hypocrisy and proof that He had power over life and death. Then He returned to Bethany.
* Read Matthew 21: 12-16, Mark 11:17, and Matthew 21: 17-22
* Watch Cleansing of the Temple
* Easter Walk — Go on a nature treasure hunt for items that represent parts of the Easter story. Read or talk about the Easter story and find the following:
– Something thorny or sharp to represent the crown of thorns
– Something made of wood to represent the cross
– Something dead to represent the Savior’s death
– Something dark to represent the darkness at noon in Jerusalem and America
– Something hard and round to represent the stone placed in front of the tomb
– Something alive to represent that Jesus lived again
(See Deborah Rowley’s picture book, Easter Walk, for more details.)
Tuesday and Wednesday — Questioning at the Temple/Teachings and Parables
Jesus was questioned at the temple mount by the temple hierarchy (Scribes and Sanhedrin), by the Herodians (who sought to bring down any other religious leadership), the Sadducees (faction of the Jews that disagreed with the Pharisees – particularly on the doctrine of Resurrection, believed only in the written law – not the oral law), and finally by the Pharisees (self-assumed teachers – practiced strict observance of the written and oral law). Jesus taught many parables, instructed His disciples, gave the Olivet Discourse, and lamented over Jerusalem. Then He returned to Bethany to prepare for the events ahead. While staying with Simon the leper, Mary of Bethany anointed His head.
* Tuesday: Read Luke 20: 1-20 and Mark 12: 28-34
* Wednesday: Read Mark 12: 41-44, Matthew 23: 23-30 note JST, Matthew 23:27-29, Matthew 24 (Olivet Discourse/Signs of Second Coming – reference Mark 13 and D&C 45), and Mark 14: 3-9
* Attend the Temple, walk the Temple grounds, or visit another holy sanctuary of your choice.
Maundy Thursday (or Holy Thursday) — Last Supper and Gethsemane
Maundy comes from the Latin word, “Mandatum” which means “commandment.” It references the scripture, “A new commandment I give unto you.” (John 13:34) The Last Supper was held in a large upper room in Jerusalem. The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was instituted. The Savior washed the feet of His disciples. Judas was revealed as betrayer. Jesus offered the high priestly or intercessory prayer (John 17). They sang a hymn then He left the upper room for the Mount of Olives and entered the Garden of Gethsemane. There, Jesus took upon himself the sins of all mankind, bled from every pore, and began the “awful Atonement.” He was arrested and taken for trial.
* Read Mark 14: 12-26 note JST, Luke 22: 19-39, John 13 – 17 / Matthew 26: 36-56, Mark 14: 32-50, and Luke 22: 41-46
* Prepare and eat a Passover Meal — (modified or traditional versions of Seder available online). Light candles and sing a hymn at the table. During the day offer some kind of selfless service reminiscent of the washing of feet and the Savior’s great love evidenced through His suffering.
Good Friday — Trial and Crucifixion
Jesus endured an illegal trial before Annas Caiaphas (the high priest). He was accused of sedition. Later He was charged with blasphemy, the most serious charge in Jewish law. The cock crowed and the Lord’s prophecy of Peter’s denial was realized. Jesus was delivered to Pilate, the Roman Governor, so an official decree of death could be issued (capital punishment had been taken away from the Sanhedrin.) Pilate, upon finding no fault in Jesus, pawned him off to Herod. (Jesus was a Galilean and Herod was the vassal over the Galilean province.)
Both Herod and Pilate were in Jerusalem for the Passover. Jesus refused to answer Herod and was returned to Pilate, who was willing to let Him go free, as it was the custom to release one prisoner during Passover, but the people called for Barrabas to be released. “His blood be upon us and our children.” Pilate was convinced to move ahead with the crucifixion. Jesus was scourged. Jesus made the long walk to Golgotha, with aid from Simon of Cyrene (Way of the Cross). Jesus was crucified and nailed to the cross. About noon there was a great earthquake that rent the veil of the temple. And then there was darkness. Three hours later Jesus said “into thy hands I commend my spirit” and gave up the ghost. Joseph of Arimithea petitioned for Jesus’ body and took it down from the cross before the Sabbath, incompletely prepared it for burial, then laid it in the tomb.
* Read Matthew 26: 47-75, Luke 22:48, John 18: 4-12 / Matthew 26: 1-25, John 18: 33-38 / Mark 15: 15-47, Luke 23: 34, 46, and John 19
* Make Hot Cross Buns — We love the Pioneer Woman recipe. English folklore said that Hot Cross Buns baked on Good Friday would never spoil. Some sailors took Hot Cross Buns on their voyages to ensure their ships wouldn’t sink. Friends who gift one another with Hot Cross Buns every year are said to remain friends for life. Deliver some buns to neighbors or friends!
Saturday — Jewish Sabbath Observance/Day of Waiting
On this day Jesus’ voice came to the Nephites. He did not appear, but they heard His voice (3 Nephi 9:13-17). He preached to the spirits in prison (D&C 138). None of Jesus’ disciples or followers came to the tomb this day. They observed the sabbath and the women anticipated returning at first morning light to finish caring for His body. This was a day of waiting for the risen Lord.
* Color Easter eggs
* Easter Vigil — Make lanterns out of mason jars (any size). Fill jars with dry beans and a votive candle. Wrap a light gauge wire around the top of the jar then thread more wire through both sides to create a handle so it can be hung. Light your lanterns at dusk and hang them from a tree or set them on your porch — a symbol of waiting for the Light of the World to rise (John 8:12). An expression of gratitude for His gift of resurrection that will come to all of God’s children. A quiet witness of belief in Jesus Christ.
Easter Sunday — Resurrection and Appearances of Jesus
Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James), Joanna and other women, came early to the tomb to complete Jesus’ burial. They found the stone rolled away. Two angels greeted them and declared Jesus had risen. They left to tell the apostles. Mary Magdalene returned to the empty tomb. Jesus appeared to her. She became the first witness of the Resurrection. Additional sightings: Resurrected Jesus appeared to two disciples on the Road to Emmaus. He appeared to His Apostles and dispelled Thomas’ doubt. He appeared to the Apostles in Galilee, then made His Ascension.
* Read Luke 24: 1-12, Luke 24: 13-15 / John 20: 11-18 / John 20: 24-30 / Luke 24: 39-40, John 21: 1-18
* Watch Jesus is Resurrected, To This End was I Born, My Kingdom is Not of this World, He is Risen, Christ Appears on Road to Emmaus, The Risen Lord Appears to the Apostles, Blessed are They that Have Not Seen, Feed My Sheep
* Get up early for a Sunrise Walk or hike. Make a Resurrection Garden by using rocks and flowers from your yard to build a small garden tomb. Fill Easter Baskets. Attend Church Service. Hold a Family Brunch or Dinner.