A New Easter Dinner Tradition: Reading the Easter Story
I live in what might possibly be one of the most secularized countries in the world—Norway. Norwegians in general are great at enjoying their 4 days off from work (plus the Easter weekend), and spending it with family at their cabins in the mountains or by the sea. But very few will associate Easter with anything remotely religious. Easter is basically for skiing or prepping the boat for summer, eating lots of marzipan, chocolate and oranges, and watching murder mystery shows on TV.
As a young mother, I felt an increasing need to put Christ back in to Easter, like I had so arduously put Christ back in to Christmas in our home. For years I collected and implemented every and any tradition or idea I could get my hands on that might help my family remember and understand the true 'Reason for the Season', and how Easter is about a lamb, not a bunny.
Some were more successful than others, like the Resurrection rolls, or our Easter Egg Tree. However, one of my favorites is our reading of scripture passages that bring us from the Garden to the Cross, and finally to the empty tomb. Just like we always make sure to read the Nativity story from Luke 2 at Christmas, I want our family to read and ponder the scriptures pertaining to Christ's death and Resurrection at Easter.
To help in telling the story, I gathered 12 scripture references that walk through Easter week, and 12 items that represent those scripture references. I place the items in an old cardboard Easter egg that we’ve used for years, but a basket or bowl would do fine too. On Easter Sunday (or another of the Easter days, if that is more convenient), we have a traditional Easter dinner. Usually it is a roasted leg of lamb, with garlic and creamed potato gratin.
On each place mat I place one or more of the scripture references, depending on how many people we have, and enough Bibles to go around. I also bring down my old cardboard egg, filled with the symbols of Easter. After the blessing of the food, but before we eat, we take turns reading the scriptures referenced, and remove the corresponding items from the container that they have been placed in ahead of time.
Here is a list of the scripture references, and the items that go with each scripture: (You can also download the scripture reference strips, and references with the listed scriptures at the bottom of this post to printout and use in your own families!)
1. Matthew 26:39 | sacrament cup
And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.
2. Matthew 26:14-15 | silver coin
Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.
3.Matthew 27:1-2 | small piece of string/rope
When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death: And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.
4. Matthew 27:24-26 | small soap
When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
5. Matthew 27:28-30 | small piece of red cloth
And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. And when they had plaited a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.
6. Matthew 27:31-32 | large nail
And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him. And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.
7. Matthew 27:35-36 | dice
And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots. And sitting down they watched him there.
8. Matthew 27:50-51, 54 | a spoonful of earth in a small bag
Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;...Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.
9. Matthew 27:57-59 | piece of linen cloth
When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathæa, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple :He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth.
10. Matthew 27:60, 65-66 | round rock
And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.....Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.
11. Mark 16:1 and Matthew 28:2,5 | small tin with perfumed ointment
And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him....And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it....And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.
12. Matthew 28:6 | empty egg
He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
I love how this tradition helps us to “feast” on the word quite literally, combining it with a special dinner, where we bring out our nicest china, silverware and cloth napkins, emphasizing the sacredness of the occasion and the celebration.
This admittedly works best once the children are old enough to actually read the scriptures. For smaller children, instead of reading the scriptures, one could simply remove an item at a time from the container and talk about the symbolic meaning of each item, and the story behind them. We did this just last week as a Family Home Evening with the Young Single Adults of our congregation, and it was a beautiful and reverent reminder of what Easter is about. It opened up a wonderful discussion about the symbols we surround ourselves with, and how they can remind us of the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for each of us, and our covenant to give our lives to Him in gratitude. He has not asked us to die for Him, rather He has asked us to live for Him.
Happy Christ-centered Easter!