Extending the Easter season

Do you ever cry the day you take the Christmas tree down? I do!  I have also felt the same sadness when Easter ends. My deep love of Easter came after reading, “A Christ-centered Easter” by Joe and Janet Hales.   Its premise is compelling.  The Hales suggest shifting secular Easter activities (e.g., the “Easter Bunny,”) to earlier in the season (e.g., the “Spring Bunny,)” so the family can focus on the significant events of the Savior’s final days of mortality during Easter week. These meaningful traditions during Holy Week became ones my children looked forward to.  The Savior was actually central to our family’s Easter season and His Spirit was felt more abundantly in our home.

But one particular year when life seemed extra crazy we didn’t do all I hoped to do in the days and weeks leading up to Easter.  Easter Sunday came to a close and I experienced a mix of sadness and regret because this holy time was over and I felt like I had shortchanged my family.  As I turned to the scriptures for solace, hope filled my heart. Clearly earthly experiences with the resurrected Lord were not limited to one day, so our celebrations and teachings need not be limited to one day.  What great news!

We rightly focus on Mary Magdalene as the first witness to Christ’s resurrection early Sunday morning; the Lord also appearing to his disciples that evening.  But Jesus also appeared to his disciples a week later in Jerusalem, then again in Galilee (at least a week later) and on further occasions until his ascension into heaven 40 days later.  FORTY days later!!! Strangely, we often neglect this time period of the Lord’s ministry.

Thankfully, I realized we could focus on these post-resurrection scriptural accounts during family time on Sundays following Easter.  Of course our thoughts, especially on the Sabbath, should always focus on the Savior; however the timeline after the Resurrection provides simple direction for discussions.  Specific methods for celebrating post-Resurrection events will vary, but if your overall goal is to allow the joy of the Savior’s resurrection to permeate your home for weeks on end, you can’t go wrong.

The ideas below are not meant to be mandatory or prescriptive—they are merely suggestions. Seven Sundays are outlined; however combining weeks has worked best for our family.  On the other hand, you may choose to implement a family home evening that integrates them all.  I have found extending Easter celebrations even a week or two increases scriptural literacy and testimony.  What will best suit your family? I hope that in whatever way you decide to continue celebrating might keep you from crying at the close of Easter Sunday. 

Seven Sundays Following Easter

A week after Easter Sunday -The Savior appeared again to his disciples!  This time Thomas was there! John 20:25 says, “And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst and said, Peace be unto you.”          

  • Invite your family to pretend they are in the room when Jesus appears again. Ask them to make the facial expression they would have made. Have everyone share how they would feel if they were Thomas. If they were one of the other disciples who had seen him the previous Sunday?
  • Read John 20:26-31 and consider how we can believe in the Savior even though we have not seen him in this life.

The second Sunday after Easter-Feed my Sheep. Discuss the account in John 21:1 which states, “after these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias.” This is the setting in which Jesus gives his disciples the command to “feed my lambs” and “feed my sheep.”  The sermon in John 21 deserves at least annual reflection.

  • For young children you may choose to incorporate the sheep theme with a craft or treat to add creative fun. Cotton balls, cauliflower, or simple coloring pages may be in order.
  • Talk about: Who are the sheep? Who are the lambs? Where do we get the food to feed them? Which lambs hard to find? How do we feed them?
  • For older children read and discuss Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s insights from his talk featuring this event (see “The First Great Commandment” Ensign, Nov 2012). Set a goal of something you can do this Sabbath day to show the Lord you do love him and you will feed his sheep. Then go and do it today!

The third Sunday after EasterGo ye into all the world. Only a few commandments the Savior gave post-Resurrection are recorded. One of these was, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).

  • Display a map of the world or print world maps as coloring pages for young children as you discuss this teaching of Jesus. If your map is laminated, you may choose to write names of relatives over the country in which they served missions or simply point out places family members or ancestors have served.
  • Reflect on the joy missionary work has brought you and your family. Share recent missionary experiences you have had as a family or individuals. Talk about how your family can better fulfill this commandment.

The fourth and fifth Sundays after EasterHundreds of witnesses.

It is hard to find art that shows “500 men at once” but hopefully this can give the feel of many witnesses.
  • Read 1 Corinthians 15:4-8, which describes several eye-witnesses of Christ’s resurrection we don’t often discuss. Talk about what it means to be a witness and why the Savior would choose to show himself to certain people. Why did He need witnesses then? Why does He need witnesses today? How can each of us be a witness of the Savior?
  • Sing Hymn 137 “Testimony” looking for phrases that stand out. Remind family members when we partake of the Sacrament we promise to witness of the Savior. Invite those who desire to “bear witness” or in other words bear testimony.

The sixth Sunday after Easter– The Ascension. Even though Acts 1:3 states the Savior was seen of his apostles “for forty days,” because of the symbolic meaning of forty days it may not be exactly that time period. Nevertheless many Christian calendars mark the Day of Ascension 39 days after Easter, making it fall on a Thursday; celebrations can occur the following Sunday.

  • Review and act out the account in Acts 1:1-11.
  • Search in the Topical Guide for “Signs of the Second Coming.” Sing the Primary song “I Wonder When He Comes Again.”
  • Make a piece of art- draw, paint, use clay or a musical instrument- to represent feelings about the Savior’s return to earth.

The seventh Sunday after EasterThe Day of Pentecost. Celebrated 7 Sundays after Easter Sunday, Pentecost commemorates the account in Acts 2.

  • Study the account in Acts chapter 2; review the miracles and conversions which occurred. Discuss how the Holy Ghost can be felt in both powerful and quiet ways.  Eat special or favorite fruit while you discuss the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23).
  • Sing the primary song “The Holy Ghost” or Hymn 143 “Let the Holy Spirit Guide” both of which list roles of the Holy Ghost. Have all who desire share experiences of feeling the Holy Ghost in a variety of its capacities: comforts, testifies, teaches, warns, inspires, instructs, and provides peace and assurance.

Since life doesn’t seem to slow down during the Easter season I particularly love the flexibility allowed in these post-resurrection events. Only the first, sixth and seventh weeks have an actual date attached.  Also, when it seems that memories of Easter have faded, the significant commemorations of Ascension and Pentecost are just around the corner.  By extending our Easter celebrations, we can better keep the Savior’s command to always remember him.

More on this and similar topics can be found in the book “Celebrate Sunday: 52 Ideas to help your family delight in the Sabbath.”