We spend 40 days preparing for Easter. We choose something to fast from; we put thought and effort into our prayer lives; we look for ways to give back to others in need. Then Easter arrives, and so many of us, myself included, are content to celebrate for the day and then go right back to our regular life, as though we have returned to Ordinary Time on Monday.
But like Lent, Easter is a season. And the Church, in her wisdom, has more for us. More joy, more feasting, more life. Fifty days of it to be precise. Eastertide, or the Easter season, lasts from Easter itself until the feast of Pentecost.
So how can we, as Catholic families, experience Easter as a season instead of just a single day? Here are a few ideas from my own family.
1. Celebrate the whole octave
If celebrating and maintaining an air of festive joy for 50 straight days seems daunting to you (as it sometimes does to me), try focusing on the Octave of Easter, the first eight days.
One easy thing we do to make those eight days stand out is to have dessert every night. Some days, the kids and I will bake a special treat together for us all to eat; other nights, we hand out an extra piece of Easter candy. Because our kids don’t normally eat dessert, just the fact that any treat is given is an indicator to them that something special is happening.
Another simple way to celebrate the octave is to plan something special for each day of the week. For example, I might plan a hike to a favorite spot during a time when we would normally be completing homeschooling lessons. Or we might make a stop in town at the playground during our usual walk.
Even if you can’t go anywhere, there is lots of space for creating special memories during the Octave of Easter at home. My children, for example, love art projects, especially ones that involve painting. I, on the other hand, cringe at the idea of bringing out the paints, knowing the mess that will ensue. But on feast days, I make the extra effort to plan art projects, because I know that it’s memorable for our children when I do.
However you choose to mark the days, I encourage you to make the Easter octave out of the ordinary this year.
2. Lean into Sunday feasts
Easter is a time of fresh starts and is the perfect time to enter into liturgical living as a family. Each Sunday of the year is meant to be a day of rest, and indeed, a mini Easter celebration all its own. This Eastertide, I encourage you to lean into Sundays as a feast day. Ask yourself, “What would it take to make Sunday look and feel different from the other days of the week to me and my family?”
This might mean completing extra chores on Saturday so there are fewer things that truly need doing on Sunday. Or perhaps it means saying no to errands and sports. Whether you take a hike, visit a museum or just stay at home, try to do something special that you will all enjoy and see how it refreshes your spirit.
For me, as a stay-at-home mom, this required a mental shift. For a long time, I looked at Sundays as a great opportunity to get a lot done because my husband was home to help out. I know from experience how hard it can be to ignore the piles of laundry and instead play outside, read a book for pleasure, or spend some leisure time resting and enjoying creation. But I also know how much good it does my soul to take a true day of rest as God intended. Now on Sundays, I put aside the never-ending to-do list and focus on being instead of doing.
3. What happened between Easter and the Ascension?
Jesus wasn’t in a hurry for Easter to be over. After the Resurrection, he spent 40 days with his disciples before ascending to the Father, helping them to understand what had just happened and what would happen next. They needed this time with the risen Lord to deepen their faith, and I think we do too. When we spend time learning more about the events that took place after the Resurrection, our faith will mature with the same new understanding that the disciples experienced.
There’s a little-known Catholic devotion called the Via Lucis that is beautiful to pray with during the Easter season. Also known as the Stations of the Resurrection, it is the Easter counterpart of the traditional Lenten Stations of the Cross. Through these stations, we walk with Jesus after the resurrection and learn from his interactions with the apostles and other disciples.
Many of us have carved out time in our schedules during Lent to pray the Stations of the Cross, time which can be re-allocated to the Stations of the Resurrection during Easter. Even if you only have the opportunity to pray these once or twice during the season, you’ll gain a better appreciation for what Christ was doing after his resurrection and what those actions meant for the beginnings of the Church.
4. Plant a Mary garden
Easter often coincides with the beginning of the growing season. I love that as we are celebrating Christ, who makes all things new, the world around us is sprouting with new growth.
Starting a Mary garden at your home can be a wonderful way to celebrate Eastertide. At the Crucifixion, Mary became the mother of us all, and in time between Christ’s death and Pentecost, we see her embracing that new role within the community.
Whether it’s a corner of a garden you already have or a brand new space you carve out, a Mary garden is quite simply a garden planted in honor of Mary. It can be small or large, potted or planted in the ground. Many gardeners will choose their flowers based on centuries-old botanical meanings, but whatever your family finds beautiful is a perfect choice.
Our Mary garden is one of my favorite parts of the yard — it’s a corner of my patio where we have a statue of Mary and a DIY grotto. Each spring, we surround her with beautiful potted plants and flowers that my kids take special delight in choosing. I can sit there and chat with her as I watch my children play outside each day.
5. Pray a novena
Between the Ascension of Christ and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost sit nine days, during which the apostles (and Mary) waited and prayed — the very first novena. A novena is a period of nine days during which special prayers for a particular intention are said. There are many different types of novenas. As we remember these days each Eastertide, it is a powerful time to pray a novena to the Holy Spirit, to ask him for an outpouring into our lives, our families and our parishes.
6. Throw a Pentecost party
Pentecost , the day the Holy Spirit descended from heaven, is the last day of the Easter season. It is also the day we celebrate the birth of the Catholic Church. In addition to attending Mass, it’s fun to throw a birthday party. My kids and I will bake a cake, decorate it with sprinkles and all sorts of toppings, and then we will sing Happy Birthday to our Catholic faith after dinner, enjoying one last Easter dessert to close the season.
As we approach Easter and you begin to think about how to celebrate the season in your own family, let prayer and the Risen Christ be your inspiration. I hope that these ideas are helpful to you, but they are just that — ideas. The Holy Spirit moves in different ways in different families. Let your celebrations be as extravagant or as simple as suits your family’s stage of life and needs. May this Easter season be a blessing to you and your family as you celebrate the resurrection of the Lord.
Colleen Pressprich, the author of “Marian Consecration for Families with Young Children” (OSV, $18.95), writes from Michigan.