Easter dinner traditions are equally universal and personal as we make them every year. For nearly everyone, there is a customary meal, often the same one that has been served for years whether it’s a turkey, a ham, or burgers on the grill. Most families tend to stick with the same meal year in and year out.
A family with little kids has survived the sugar rush, the wall climbing during Easter Mass, and a few outright brawls over some chocolate bunny that wasn’t actually intended to be eaten during one sitting. And if you’re like most families, everyone dashes around that awkward moment that has the potential to blow up into a huge family argument but since it’s Easter, everyone will wait for three days before someone decides they’re still angry about it.
Easter Dinner is another one of those traditions that has lost meaning for a lot of people. Factor in the Easter Bunny, family we see only once or twice a year, and a bit of undue stress, and the honesty in Easter Dinner gets lost in the mix.
Easter, in its most religious meaning, is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Some European countries stop the daily ringing of the church bell on Thursday in memoriam of the death of Jesus Christ. The daily tradition begins once again the early morning hours of Easter Sunday in commemoration of the resurrection.
Devout Christians in America celebrate Easter in the spiritual manner, as do devout Christians all over the world. Non-celebratory Christians and borderline Atheists who hold onto the “just in case” belief tend to look at Easter Dinner as just another family gathering. How do people who are marginally religious (as in religious enough to celebrate the holiday but tend to skip the mass part) get a meaningful Easter Dinner out of the experience?
From a more practical standpoint, Easter is really about forgiveness, life, and in a sense everlasting life. For those who carry on Easter for the family camaraderie and the Easter Bunny for the kids, Easter can still be a time of personal reflection and growth. Just as the Jews celebrate a day of forgiveness, Easter represents such a time in an abstract, yet practical manner.
There are people in every one’s life whom we have hurt and we have wronged, whether intentionally or accidentally, we are human and we err. Thus, Easter Dinner is a meal that can easily represent a meal of atonement and forgiveness. This year perhaps instead of lecturing your little sister (we are grown ups now, right) on some basic principle you feel she is missing in her life, why not offer an apology for the last lecture you dished her way and work on accepting her for who she is? Sitting around the Easter Dinner table with the kids happily chatting away at their own little feast, how about shouting out to junior that you forgive him for spilling apple juice all over the laptop last week, and encourage him to forgive someone as well?
Easter does not need to be another empty meaningless holiday for anyone, regardless of beliefs or level of belief. Easter Dinner traditions can be started at any moment with just a good idea and a bold thought. Easter candy and an Easter egg hunt are great fun for the kids, but what can they walk away from dinner this year having learned about growing and loving and forgiving? What traditions can you give them that will mean something as they grow out of the Easter Bunny and searching frantically for eggs?
People without strong family ties or families that have broken beyond repair often do not know how to re-ignite the Easter Dinner traditions from their own childhood because of the pain of family strife. Starting new Easter Dinner traditions can be quite healing to those who need a bit of holiday lift. Even seemingly silly traditions can lead to a lifetime of happy memories for you and your family. Invite your kids to make special Easter plates with a plate making kit or spruce up the house with either Easter decorations or spring decorations if they make you more comfortable.
Being alone at Easter can be remarkably difficult. For those who find themselves alone, or couples and families that want to start a new family tradition, adopting a grandparent can make the spirit of Easter come alive. Nursing homes typically have lists of people who rarely or never receive visitors. Making an Easter dinner and making the life of and elderly individual a little brighter completely exemplifies the Easter spirit, and can make a remarkably wonderful Easter tradition.
Easter Dinner traditions are as personal or universal as we make them. The more we start to understand ourselves and our beliefs, the more we understand our holidays and how we celebrate them. Regardless of personal situation, belief system, or family situation, there is a Happy Easter waiting for everyone.