Good Friday is a busy day for our family. Even when both parents aren’t preaching, there’s a lot to do.
1) After the kids came along, one of the rituals was cleaning the house. With so many worship services it became clear right away that traveling to family was just too exhausting, so if family wants to see us on Easter, they have to come to us. It’s also become a tradition to invite friends whose families are quite far away. HOWEVER – having guests, even when they are family, means cleaning. It’s wonderful to have a clean house but getting that way is definitely a chore! Good Friday means starting the cleaning process that will continue into Saturday.
2) There is another cleaning ritual I started for myself quite a few years ago. Both of my mother’s parents died before I was born. I never met them, and my mother has saved precious little from them.
One of the things my mother passed along to me, after years of me complaining about its neglect, is my grandmother’s silver tea set. In my mother’s pantry it was gathering not only dust, but turning a deep brown. When she finally relented to give it to me I promised her that I would keep it well – and I have. It has a prominent place in our dining room, and while one of the handles needs to be fixed, I keep it in very good condition – and one of the times of year I ALWAYS clean it is in preparation for Easter. For me it’s symbolic. My grandmother is one of the saints of God, one of the souls I look forward to meeting when it is my turn to join the cloud of witnesses in the Church Triumphant. Cleaning her tea set, holding these vessels that she held with her hands, helps me feel connected to her in a very profound way. I think of her, the facts I know about her life, and wonder about the many things that are still a mystery to me about this woman. Cleaning her tea set isn’t so much of a chore as it is a joy.
3) Good Friday is obviously more than cleaning – it is also about our Lord’s death on the cross. Many years ago, when our children were still small, my husband and I came across an activity that we immediately wanted to start practicing with our young family. When Christmas is over we save our Christmas tree. We bring it out to the edge of our backyard and we save it there. On Good Friday we take this tree, cut off all the branches, then saw the trunk about 1/3 from the top, take the two parts of the trunk, and make a cross. Then we use the Christmas tree stand to display it in front of our house – a reminder to all of the sacrifice our Lord made on this day. As the children have gotten older, they help us with the pruning and nailing and it’s a great opportunity for us to remind them of the connection between Christmas – the birth of the savior – and Easter – the sacrifice he made for us. For Christmas means nothing without Easter.
4) A tradition that is my husband’s, although I join him when able, is to watch the movie “Jesus Christ Superstar.” It is one of the few “Jesus” movies that doesn’t include resurrection. It leaves you at Good Friday. Not a comfortable place to be, but we shouldn’t rush too quickly to Easter morning – it’s important that we linger a bit in the chasm left by our Lord’s death.
5) Of course there is worship. In the evening we have a service of darkness – in the Latin “Tenebrae.” The church starts in light, and as the worship progresses lights and candles are extinguished until the church is in total darkness – our lives without Jesus. Then “the Book” is slammed shut – shaking us all – it is finished. It’s one of my favorite services of the whole year, along with Maundy (or Holy) Thursday (but since the kids are usually still in school on Thursday our family “stuff to do” doesn’t start in earnest till Friday).
Saturday we will still be cleaning and finally starting to decorate for Easter (my autistic daughter is just about losing her mind wanting to decorate, and has been making me a bit crazy perseverating about it – but we do NOT get out the decorations until the day before). We try to stay away from too many “bunny” things, but we hang plastic eggs from our front trees, and color eggs and have baskets. We give presents too, although not as many as at Christmas. Heck, if we get presents for Jesus’ birthday, shouldn’t we get some for him rising from the dead! And of course there’s candy, because God’s love is SO sweet. But before the baskets, candy and gifts, there is more worship. Saturday night we will celebrate the Great Vigil of Easter. And this year, it also happens to be the exact anniversary of our middle daughter’s baptism, who was made our sister in Christ 11 years ago at the Great Vigil.
Busy times, crazy times, good times. Do you have any family traditions/rituals leading up to Easter?