Many Easter Sundays, a sacrament speaker announces that they were assigned to talk about their families Easter traditions, only to explain to us that they don’t do much on Easter. Sometimes as a young man, we had youth activities like camps planned over the Easter weekend. As an adult, I have felt pressure to organise activities over Easter. In New Zealand, where I live, this would never happen for Christmas, which bothers me because I think Easter is greater than Christmas.
In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Easter and Christmas are more cultural tradition than religious requirements. They’re holidays more than holy days, even if they remember something holy. The church website says: “Latter-day Saints conduct Easter Sunday services but do not follow the religious observances of Ash Wednesday, Lent, or Holy Week... Some LDS families include Easter bunnies and eggs in their family festivities for the delight of children. Such traditions are not officially discouraged, though they have no religious significance to Latter-day Saints.” People from different countries and cultures practice Easter and Christmas differently, and sometimes not at all. The faithful saints I knew in South Korea on my mission often didn’t practice Easter or Christmas. There have been many years when General Conference has occurred over the Easter Weekend, or the weekend of Palm Sunday (so all parts of the world that hold delayed broadcasts have them over the Easter Weekend).
Our family like to really celebrate Easter. Traditions from my side of the family include an Easter feast on Maundy Thursday where we commemorate the passover meal and last supper (we eat lamb, flat bread, and some herbs, alongside many roasted veges, and drink grape juice), cooking hot cross buns on Good Friday, chocolate easter eggs on Easter Sunday, and eating fish and honeycomb on Easter Monday. Our Easters weren’t always like this. From memory, there was a was a conference talk on establishing righteous traditions that inspired my parents to think about how we celebrated Easter. I think it may have been Cultivate Righteous Traditions by Elder Hallstrom in 2000. With new, enjoyable, meaningful Easter traditions, Easter quickly became my favourite holiday. Easter got even better when I married and added traditions from my wife’s family, including easter themed arts and crafts such as decorating eggs, and various foods such as ham, sausages, several egg dishes, cheesecake, mazurek, and an Easter Monday water fight (Śmigus-Dyngus). In between all this, there is a lot of cooking, family time, and fun.
When people at church start organising activities for the Easter period, I let them know that we will not be there. This year, we are in lockdown because of covid 19, but other years I often have to explain that we celebrate Easter all Easter weekend. In New Zealand, there are statutory holidays giving us a 4 day weekend, but as I mentioned earlier, our family often starts even earlier on the Thursday night with an Easter feast. Responses are mixed. Some people think it’s great. Others don’t get it. Some don’t understand that for me, Easter is not less than Christmas, it’s longer, it’s bigger, it’s better. There is more food and more fun, but is this all it is?
Why is Easter greater than Christmas?
Easter not not just greater than Easter because the Easter weekend is longer than Christmas. It’s not just because my family eats more food at Easter than at Christmas (mostly because it’s longer). It’s because at Easter we celebrate the central doctrine of Christianity; The atonement of Christ, which includes His death and resurrection.
If not Easter, why Christmas? Jesus Christ is important, not because He was born, but because of His atonement. As you may have noticed, I haven’t cited any scriptures or revelations directing people to observe Easter. It’s not required. However, in countries where Easter is practiced, it seems like a wasted opportunity to treat the Easter weekend as just a long weekend. Yet people hold church activities that take people away from their families (like YSA conferences or young men camps), instead of celebrating the atonement with their families. Sure, we might take some Easter eggs on the young men camp or hike. Sure, we might take some time to teach and learn about the atonement on the YSA conference. But in New Zealand at least, that would not be treating Easter as on par with Christmas. We might hold YSA conferences over other holidays like New Years, but not Christmas. We might hold young mens camps over ANZAC day or Labour Weekend, but not over Christmas.
Create a New Easter Tradition
This months Ensign included a story called My Not-So-Traditional Easter Tradition by Brooke Anderson. She tells of how she celebrated Easter after moving away from family. She sat in a cemetery on Easter Sunday morning. Thinking about her deceased family members and Jesus resurrection was such a meaningful experience to her that she continues to visit cemeteries every Easter.
If you are a follower of Jesus, and live in a country where Easter is a holiday, but your Easter traditions are lackluster, consider starting a new family tradition. It might just make Easter your favourite holiday too.
What are the origins of our secular Easter traditions? Is there any historical connection between these traditions and our Christian celebration of the resurrection of Christ? – by Robert C. Patch, professor of ancient scripture, Brigham Young University.