The Liturgical Home: Surprised by Easter

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I was surprised by Easter! Sure, I knew it was a time of great joy and celebration for Christians around the world. I knew that during Easter, we reflect on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the hope that his resurrection brings to our lives.

But there was so much I did not know!

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As I researched and learned more about the season of Easter, called Eastertide, for my latest guidebook, The Liturgical Home: Easter, I discovered so many things that delighted and surprised me. Today, I want to surprise you, too, with three favorite things that I learned about this season.

1. That the season even exists!

We all know about Easter Sunday, but if you are like me, many of us do not know that there is a whole season of feasting and festivities set aside to fully celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Just as Christmas has more than one day to celebrate the birth of Jesus, so Easter has more than one day devoted to its celebration. For 50 whole days, Christians worldwide feast and celebrate all that Jesus accomplished for us.

Technically, I knew that there was an Easter season, but it’s weird how you can know things without really knowing them. My husband is a priest, and I am the children’s minister, so I am in church every Sunday. I see “The Second Sunday of Easter” or the “Third Sunday of Easter” printed on the front of the bulletin but it never dawned on me that maybe we should be incorporating this time of celebration into our own lives.

Isn’t that funny? I mean, I write about these things for a living! You would think that I would have thought, “Ok, we have a whole season to celebrate Christmas, do we have a whole season to celebrate Easter?” And then when I found out that we did, I should research how people have traditionally marked the time but I never did until now.

But now that I know, it is so exciting to me and makes so much sense! Since the death and resurrection of Jesus are the most pivotal moments in our Christian faith, it makes sense that there should be a whole season to celebrate it! It makes sense that the season should last longer than the 12 days given to celebrate Jesus’ birth and it makes sense that it should be filled with feasting and great joy. 

2. The Easter symbols that I thought were pagan are not pagan at all!

If I am honest, I have to admit that I was very leery of writing about the symbols of Easter. Didn’t they all have pagan origins? Even the name Easter itself was after a goddess of fertility, right? Look up “Easter eggs” through any search engine, and you’ll find dozens of secular articles containing the phrase, “although they have pagan origins.”

But as I delved deeper I began to find out that the links to paganism were unfounded and that the pagan origin theories were just speculations by a few historians. I was so encouraged to find out that the Early Church was very vehement in its rejection of paganism of any form. They didn’t adopt pagan symbols and “Christianize” them. Instead, the church identified symbols that expressed the content of Christian doctrine and fit into the patterns of the church year.

Eggs, for instance, were always used as a symbol of the resurrection of Christ. Christians thought it was the perfect symbol for the transformation of the resurrection and the empty tomb. And we dye eggs at the end of Lent, not only as a joyful preparation for Easter but also because there are lots of eggs around. Even if you fast from eating eggs, the hens do not fast from laying them! To read more about the significance of eggs in Easter, check out my article on Easter Eggs, complete with a recipe for natural dyes.

3. The history of the Easter Basket

Before I wrote my guidebook on Easter, I had no idea where the Easter basket tradition came from. I just knew that everyone got one on Easter morning, and it was filled with lots of candy and dyed, boiled eggs that no one wanted to eat. But through my time spent researching, I discovered that the history of the Easter basket is quite beautiful and meaningful!

Traditionally, foods that had been abstained from during Lent or that were going to be used in the Easter feast were brought to the church. The food was brought in baskets decorated with ribbons and flowers and also filled with dyed eggs. The people recognized that their food was a gift from God, and they might give a portion of it to the priests or those in need. With King David, they believed that “All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee” (1 Chronicles 29:14).

Then, during the service, the priest blessed the baskets before the parishioners went home to prepare their feasts. The blessing of the food baskets served as a way to sanctify and consecrate the foods that were to be eaten on Easter Sunday. It was like grace before meals but in a special way for Easter. For Christians, saying grace before meals transforms food into a symbol of God’s grace and goodness and becomes a source of nourishment for both the body and the soul. What a profound tradition!

Today, we may not put traditional foods in our baskets such as lamb or crocks of butter, but the ribbons, flowers, and eggs are still a symbol of the joy that comes from the resurrection of Jesus. One way of combining the old practice with the new would be to put your easter basket as a centerpiece on the table for your easter meal!

In Conclusion

I hope these findings were as much a blessing to you as they were to me. As we celebrate Easter this year, let us reflect on the significance of the empty tomb and the message of forgiveness and redemption that it brings, and may our homes be enriched by the beauty of these Eastertide traditions. Through them, may we be reminded of the hope and promise that Easter brings to our lives, and may we be filled with joy and gratitude for the gift of new life that we have received through Jesus Christ.


Photo by Vaclav on Unsplash.

Published on

April 1, 2023

Author

Ashley Tumlin Wallace

Ashley Tumlin Wallace, the author of the Liturgical Home series of books and articles at Anglican Compass, is a homeschooling mom of four and the wife of an Anglican priest. She and her family live in the panhandle of Florida.

View more from Ashley Tumlin Wallace

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