My freshman year of college I was irate. After twelve years of Catholic school I expected some sort of vacation at Easter. My secular college however had no intention of living up to that expectation. It was eye opening that first year to realize that, not only was there no vacation, no one even acknowledged that Easter was on its way.
In high school, Easter had always been a time to celebrate. (If nothing else, to celebrate the end of Friday fish fry lunches.) On Easter morning, following a huge post-church family brunch, I remember gorging on chocolate bunnies (especially their ears), Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs, PEEPs and other assorted sweets, usually giving myself a stomach ache as I cast off the forty-some days of sacrifice I had endured.
But in college no one cared what I gave up for Lent, and when I told my friends of my plan to go home for Easter Sunday, they thought it seemed “extreme.”
Easter didn’t matter; and as my college years continued, it mattered less and less to me. Without a vacation I found myself knee deep in homework, rehearsals, meetings, and everything else that consumed my college life. I was “too busy” to celebrate the holiday, and my Easter activities devolved into mindless sugar consumption and occasional PEEP jousting bouts during study breaks.
What’s remarkable is that this was also the experience of most of my friends. Although Christmas is held inviolate, Easter truly defines our faith and yet it seems to be shuffled in among the less important holidays that survive only to boost sales revenues.
Yet, Easter doesn’t have to be just about chocolate rabbits, marshmallow chicks and jelly beans. Even without a vacation, there are ways to make Easter a memorable holiday. After some informal polling, here are five easy suggestions my friends and I came up with to make your Easter more than just sweet.
Celebrate with “family” not with candy.
For many, even celebrating Easter at all is a challenge. Kristen (age 20) suggests starting small and in the traditional way: “Go visit family, or get some close friends together and plan to meet for church and brunch.” Taking the initiative to make plans with others will go a long way toward making your Easter meaningful, because sometimes just getting up and to a church on your own can be difficult. Having brunch afterward gives you time to reflect with others on the homily and what Easter means for you in your modern life. Also an Easter brunch is a great incentive to get out of bed. Luckily, brunch is usually fairly inexpensive so you can either go out, or make your own if you’re feeling ambitious. Here are some easy Easter brunch ideas for people who can, or can’t, cook but still want to host Easter brunch .
Go fly a kite.
In Bermuda every Easter, “Bermuda Kites” are built and flown to symbolize Christ’s ascension into heaven. In the Netherlands and parts of Germany, “Easter fires” are built at sunset on Easter Sunday to bring community together and celebrate the coming of spring and warm weather. Lots of regions have fun and different ways to celebrate Easter; Brian (age 28) recommends picking one or two interesting traditions from different cultures and trying them out. “Sometimes what is boring about holidays is we are so used to the same old practices. Finding unique traditions can make a holiday special and more meaningful.” If you’re going to try out other Easter customs I do recommend, however, staying away from Slovakian Easter Monday whippings.
Start your spring-cleaning
. Easter is a time to start anew. Just as Lent gave us the time to remove unnecessary habits from our life, we can use Easter as a time to remove unnecessary objects. If you’re anything like me, somehow over the winter months you’ve managed to accumulate more stuff than you could ever use, so use Easter weekend as a time to cull your closets. Gayle (age 38) uses Easter weekend as the weekend to collect all of her clothing donations for the year. “I think of Easter as a time for sacrifice, so I like to make an effort to give what I can to those less fortunate then myself.” Here are some easy tips for how to donate your gently used clothes and other items so you can help yourself while helping others.
Give new life.
Celebrating Easter is intrinsically linked to welcoming Spring and the new life that comes with it, so do your part to bring new life into your community by planting trees, flowers or other perennial plants. Ryan (age 25) suggests making a tradition of Easter planting: “Plant something new every Easter, and throughout the year tend to your plants. This will help make the spirit of Easter last throughout the year. Then every Easter plant something new in your Easter garden; that way you can look back at the different plants and remember the Easters that have passed.” You’re not only beautifying your neighborhood and making lasting memories, you’re helping the environment — which is a great way to share the gift of life with future generations.
Commit to your personal rebirth
. Most people are tempted to return to the many bad habits they fasted from during Lent, and forget about them until next year. Lindsey (age 23) thinks that the opposite should be the case. “Instead of using Easter as a time to return to all of my bad habits, I like to use it as a day to evaluate the permanent changes I want to make in my life.” If you gave up junk food for Lent this doesn’t mean you need to commit to a life of fried food celibacy, but you can try to make a commitment to eating more healthily. If you gave up cursing, evaluate the difference that made in your life and commit to choosing your words more carefully. Think of ways that the sacrifices you made during Lent can become part of your everyday life. Even if you didn’t give up anything for Lent, use Easter as a day to give yourself a new start. Make a commitment to healthier living, to being a better person, and to focusing more fully on how your actions relate to your wellbeing and your own personal spiritual journey.
Originally published April 8, 2009.