For most of the world, Easter is one happy day. If you’re lucky, you can grab some chocolate bunnies on sale at the grocery store on Easter Monday, but once the jelly beans are eaten and the ham leftovers are finished, then Easter is over.
However, as Christians we know that the resurrection of Jesus is the pivotal moment for the human race. Death has been defeated, and transformed into the gateway to eternal life.
This is such an incredible and momentous occasion that our Easter celebration can’t be contained to one day. In fact, the General Instruction for the Roman Missal calls the fifty days of the Easter season “the Great Sunday”: the entire fifty days of the Catholic Easter season is considered one extended feast. And when you notice that the Easter season is longer than Lent (fifty days, compared to Lent’s forty), it feels like the Church is really trying to tell us something: rejoice!
So how can we continue to engage in the Great Sunday of the Resurrection long after the Easter Bunny has gone and the chocolates have been finished? In this article, we’ll share some practical tips and ideas that you can implement in your schools in order to continue the celebration of Easter throughout the entire holy season.
Look to the Natural World
For those of us living in the northern hemisphere, nature is blossoming into springtime just as the Easter season dawns. The daylight is lengthening; the temperature grows warmer. We may be able to step outside without a jacket for the first time in months.
From the beginning, Christians have associated the Easter season with the spring equinox, the beginning of spring, and the reason is obvious: the earth is exploding with new life. Even the coldest parts of Canada usually see leaves budding on the trees and lilies emerging from their underground bulbs near Easter.
God uses the natural world to teach us about the supernatural world. Every year, we too are invited to be renewed and reborn in the Easter season. There are dozens of traditional symbols for Easter that we find in the natural world: seeds, butterflies, flowers, the dogwood tree, chicks, and even the Easter Bunny can all teach us something about how we too can pass through death to experience new life.
Practical Tips & Ideas:
- Bring the natural world into your classroom. Depending on the age of your students, you could consider the following nature projects and discuss what they represent spiritually:
- raise caterpillars and release them as butterflies
- plant seeds and watch them sprout
- tend to an outdoor garden of Mary Flowers, or plan vegetables that can be harvested and eaten or shared
- Take your class outside once a week, if you can, and draw analogies from the natural world to the supernatural realities of grace. Each time you go outdoors, notice the differences in nature, and enjoy the progression of spring into summer.
- Learn about the legend of the dogwood tree as an Easter symbol and make this dogwood flower craft with young students.
Celebrate the Feast Days & Sacraments of the Easter Season
The Easter season is chock-full of beautiful feast days to celebrate. At the culmination of the Octave of Easter is Divine Mercy Sunday, the great feast that emphasizes God’s abundant mercy. The Fourth Sunday of Easter is often called Good Shepherd Sunday, since the Gospel focuses on this story, and is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations.
The Easter season nears the end with the Feast of the Ascension, and then at the climactic end of the Easter season we have the Feast of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church. Each of these feasts has beautiful Mass readings which can give us an opportunity to reflect on their connection with the Easter mystery together with our students. In addition, the Sunday and weekday Gospels during the Easter season paint a vivid picture of the life of the early Church after Jesus’ resurrection by taking us through the book of the Acts of the Apostles.
The Easter season is also a perfect time to participate in the sacraments. Traditionally, adults and older children who are converting to Catholicism receive their sacraments of initiation (baptism, communion, and confirmation) at the Easter Vigil Mass, and if you have students or families who have been received into the Church in a particular year, it’s worth a celebration!
All Catholics are obliged to receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season, which “guarantees as a minimum the reception of the Lord’s Body and Blood in connection with the Paschal feasts, the origin and center of the Christian liturgy” (CCC 2042). This is more than simply an obligation: it is an opportunity for new life. As Pope Francis said: “The grace contained in the Sacraments of Easter (Baptism and Communion) is an enormous potential for the renewal of our personal existence, of family life, of social relations.” (Pope Francis, Regina Cæli, 1st April 2013)
Practical Tips & Ideas:
- Schedule a school Mass during the Easter season so that all Catholic students have an opportunity to receive their Easter communion.
- Celebrate any students or families who may have been baptized or received first sacraments during the Easter Vigil.
- Divine Mercy Sunday (2nd Sunday of Easter): introduce and explain the Divine Mercy apparitions & devotions with activities and crafts. Make the sacrament of reconciliation available for students to receive God’s mercy anew.
- World Day of Prayer for Vocations (4th Sunday of Easter): Invite a priest, religious, or married person to come speak to your class about their vocation.
- Invite all Christian students to look up the date of their own baptism and mark it in their calendars to celebrate themselves.
Utilize the Signs & Symbols of Easter
The Church’s tradition holds many rich signs and symbols which point to the deeper reality of the Easter season. Simply incorporating these into your classroom life can profoundly enrich your experience of the Easter season, both through discussion about the meaning of the symbols, and through the tangible reminder that they are each time you see them.
For example, light symbolizes Christ’s victory over the darkness of sin, death, and the grave; water symbolically (and ritually, in baptism) washes away sin; the colour white represents purity, new life, and the absence of sin. The Paschal Candle, then, is the liturgical representation of these three symbols: a white candle, bearing the Light of Christ, is dipped in the holy water font during the Vigil to bless the waters. These and other symbols of Easter and springtime can be great conversation starters in the classroom.
Practical Tips & Ideas:
- Set up a small table at the front of your classroom with a white tablecloth, a candle, and holy water.
- Decorate white candles for Easter (battery-powered, if needed). Invite a priest to your class to have your candles blessed.
- Make holy water available for students near the door as they enter or exit the classroom.
- Begin class with the traditional Easter greeting and response: “He is risen!” “He is risen indeed!”
- Keep jelly beans or Easter candy on your desk to give as treats to students during the entire Easter season.
As St. Augustine famously said, “We are an Easter people, and ‘alleluia’ is our song.”
The whole of the Christian life should be marked by the joys of Easter. Because Jesus rose from the dead, we are given new life, freedom from sin, and an eternal destiny. So how can we, as teachers, administrators, and Catholic school advocates, be an “Easter people”?
It’s often said that joy is contagious. When we experience joy in our own lives, it overflows into the lives of those around us.
Just after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, at one of the darkest times in recent global memory, Pope Francis said, “Dear sister, dear brother, even if in your heart you have buried hope, do not give up: God is greater. Darkness and death do not have the last word. Be strong, for with God nothing is lost!” (Pope Francis, Homily, April 2020). We are called to embrace faith, hope, and joy even in the darkest times because of the witness of the Cross. Death does not have the last word. We are invited to pass through death to life, with Jesus, each Easter season.
Finally, Pope Francis reminds us again: Easter is a season of hope. “To celebrate Easter is to believe once more that God constantly breaks into our personal histories, challenging our ‘conventions’, those fixed ways of thinking and acting that end up paralyzing us. To celebrate Easter is to allow Jesus to triumph over the craven fear that so often assails us and tries to bury every kind of hope.” (Pope Francis, Homily, 31st March 2018).
Let’s use this Easter season, not just to enjoy our leftover Easter candy, but to be immersed into the hope of the Resurrection.
We hope and pray that you and your schools have a very blessed Easter season!