Friday, March 11, 2016

Should Catholics Attend Easter Egg Hunts on Holy Saturday?

Mailbag time!

The Question:
Hi, Kendra! Thanks so much for your blog. I was hoping you could offer some advice on a question regarding living out the liturgical year with young kids. Our parish Easter egg hunt is scheduled for Holy Saturday morning and I don't know whether my toddler and preschooler should participate. On the one hand, I don't want to celebrate Easter before its time, especially since this is the first year I've introduced the concept of Lent to my preschooler. On the other hand, I don't want to become isolated from my parish community by being overly rigid about such things. (From my observations as a fairly new parishioner, I'm going to have to make this sort of decision a lot!)

Thanks! Meredith
Descent of Christ to Hell/Limbo - by ANDREA DA FIRENZE - from Cappella Spagnuolo, Santa Maria Novella, Florence               (Easter eggs added by me. ;)


The Answer:


Meredith,

I've totally been there, with just the concerns you expressed. And when my oldest kids were little, I'm pretty sure we did attend an egg hunt or two on Holy Saturday.

I know that what works for my family isn't necessarily what works for all families, and that God speaks to us in different ways. The Catholic Church is a universal church and there is a wide latitude extended to us, the faithful, on how we can celebrate feasts and fasts.

In the absence of an official Catholic teaching on a particular issue like this one, good Catholics are free to disagree.

But for our family, now that we make a point of observing Lent, and make the liturgical year a part of our home life, I feel very strongly against participating in an Easter egg hunt on Holy Saturday. ESPECIALLY at a Catholic parish.

From an ancient homily for Holy Saturday, on the Vatican website:
"What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled."

A great silence. That's what Holy Saturday is. A day of preparation and longing.

Fasting is encouraged (but not required).

Paschales Solemnitatis, the main document governing the celebration of Easter, tells us:
73. On Holy Saturday the Church is, as it were, at the Lord's tomb, meditating on his passion and death, and on his descent into hell, and awaiting his resurrection with prayer and fasting.

It is highly recommended that on this day the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer be celebrated with the participation of the people (cf. n. 40).

Where this cannot be done, there should be some celebration of the Word of God, or some act of devotion suited to the mystery celebrated this day.

74. The image of Christ crucified or lying in the tomb, or the descent into hell, which mystery Holy Saturday recalls, as also an image of the sorrowful Virgin Mary can be placed in the church for the veneration of the faithful.
We are "at the Lord's Tomb, meditating on his passion and death." I cannot see how we can do that while popping jelly beans and sitting for photos with a giant bunny at an Easter egg hunt. I'm sure my children couldn't. I'm sure *I* couldn't.

Catholics aren't to celebrate ANYTHING on Holy Saturday, not even the sacraments. 

Good Friday and Holy Saturday are the only two days of the whole year when it's forbidden to celebrate marriages and baptisms except in danger of death. We don't even celebrate the Mass or consecrate the Eucharist. If hosts are distributed on those days, they were consecrated on Holy Thursday. Church bells do not ring. Altars are bare.

Paschales Solemnitatis says:
75. On this day the Church abstains strictly from the celebration of the sacrifice of the Mass.

Holy Communion may only be given in the form of Viaticum.

The celebration of marriages is forbidden, as also the celebration of other sacraments, except those of Penance and the Anointing of the Sick.
Update: thanks to Amanda for pointing out that this directive was changed in 1955. Still no Mass, no concecration, but Holy Communion can be offered.

It just seems unreasonable for a Catholic parish to choose that one day of all days to host an Easter egg hunt. Especially since there are FIFTY DAYS OF EASTERTIDE! FIFTY DAYS! FIFTY!

I'm sorry, was I shouting? Allow me to compose myself.

I understand that stores only care about the lead up to a holiday, because all they want is to sell you stuff. But as Catholics, in our places of worship, the lead up to Easter and Easter itself are very distinct seasons. It's no more appropriate to offer an Easter Egg hunt on Holy Saturday, as it would be to offer the Stations of the Cross on Easter Sunday. I don't mean to be too hard on parish liturgical committee members. I'm sure that all they want is to create community and fun and not interfere with family Easter celebrations. But for every thing (turn, turn, turn) there is a season . . .

Easter is a season. Any moment between the Easter Vigil and close of business on Pentecost would be just perfect for an Easter egg hunt.

From Universal Norms on the Liturgical Year and the Calendar:
22. The fifty days from the Sunday of the Resurrection to Pentecost Sunday are celebrated in joy and exultation as one feast day, indeed as one "great Sunday." These are the days above all others in which the Alleluia is sung.

23. The Sundays of this time of year are considered to be Sundays of Easter and are called, after Easter Sunday itself, the Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Sundays of Easter. This sacred period of fifty days concludes with Pentecost Sunday.
Joy and exultation! One great Sunday!

Even more, Easter is an Octave, so each day from the first Sunday of Easter to the Second Sunday of Easter IS ACTUALLY EASTER. Each day of that week is a Solemnity:
24. The first eight days of Easter Time constitute the Octave of Easter and are celebrated as Solemnities of the Lord.
The Saturday AFTER Easter is . . . Easter. Let's have Easter Egg hunts on Easter. Any of the eight days of Easter!

My kids know that we don't attend egg hunts on Holy Saturday. In our house, we dye Easter eggs, we tidy and decorate the house, we prepare our Easter meal. Some of the kids get to stay up late for the vigil.

We explain to them why, and they get it. If they notice an Easter egg hunt scheduled on Holy Saturday, we laugh with the little kids over how silly that is, and we (with charity) remind the big kids of the important reasons we wouldn't participate. We present it to them as part of our family culture, as a thing that makes us awesome. We are trying to do it right, that's why we do it our way. We are not going to celebrate Easter Sunday on Holy Saturday, but we ARE going to celebrate it for the whole of Eastertide. That's something they can support. We leave the plastic eggs out the whole time and let the kids hide them for each other again and again. It's a whole thing. They sometimes even put their Easter candy in there all over again.

So, tl:dr version: My family doesn't go to Easter egg hunts or any other celebrations on Holy Saturday, and, since you asked, I don't think you should either. But it's your call.

Cheers,
Kendra

Here's more on how we observe Holy Week:

The "You Can Still Do This" Guide to All Things Holy Week


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33 comments:

  1. Hahaha! That graphic wins everything. (Also, I agree and we've made that same decision for the same reason. Great explanation.) But that graphic!!

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  2. It's forbidden to receive Holy Communion on Good Friday?

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    1. I looked this up. Apparently, Pope Pius XII changed this rule in 1955 but some regions and rites still do not do Holy Communion on Good Friday. Kendra must belong to one of these regions or parishes. We receive here on Good Friday during our service...they are consecrated hosts from the Holy Thursday.

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    2. Thanks Amanda. You're right. I should say that the Mass isn't celebrated and the Eucharist isn't consecrated, but Holy Communion can be offered. I'll update the post. :)

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  3. I understand your reasoning but I'll add that we celebrate on Saturday and Sunday simply by being together with family over the Easter weekend. We live 5 hours from family so whoever travels normally likes to leave right after lunch on Sunday so they don't get home real late (especially if we are the ones travelling since we are travelling with little kids). So, in our case, yes, we celebrate by eating good meals the whole weekend, but we wait until Sunday to do any Easter egg hunting. But, we normally celebrate any weekend we get together with good meals because it only happens at most once a month. I would suggest that everyone look at their own situations and make a decision based on what works best logistically for them.

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    1. I think the intent is what's most important here, right? We usually host a big southern catfish fry on Good Friday. It's delicious, and great fun. But we keep the food simple, we do the Stations of the Cross . . . it's a good meal, it's community, but its appropriate for the day.

      On Holy Saturday, I usually make my grandfather's potato dumpling soup. It's really good and perfect comfort food, but the ingredients are very simple and meat-free. There no official prohibition against it, but I wouldn't bust out a ham dinner on Holy Saturday.

      Of course, if we were visitors in someone else's home, we'd have to be courteous. But as much as I could do in charity, I'd try to help make sure that Easter Sunday felt different than the triduum.

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    2. Any chance you would share that recipe? Sounds wonderful.

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  4. I really like this explanation. As a new(ish) wife and new mom, I've been thinking a lot about creating an intentional family culture. We started saying grace before dinner this Lent and we are going to continue that! Re: egg hunts, though, my in-laws have been hosting a big neighborhood brunch and egg hunt on Holy Saturday since before my husband was even born, so I think that will just have to become part of our tradition, and we will be gracious guests (we visit their house from several hours away). I will look at it as an impetus to make sure my Good Friday is particularly prayerful and reflective, and focus on the wonderful hospitality and community aspects of the event on Saturday.

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  5. Funny, it's not only this parish that plans hunts on the wrong days. My little Baptist church planned one for Palm Sunday. PALM SUNDAY! Luckily my husband (the pastor) was able to talk 'em down. :) It was actually a beautiful teaching moment!

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    1. The hunt was moved to Easter Sunday after the churchwide potluck. 🎉

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  6. Yep, that's what I'd do. BC (before Catholicism) we used to go to an egg hunt Saturday, but we were not doing much to observe Lent period. Now, even if we hunted eggs we couldn't eat the candy.

    I can't believe how Easter's sneaking up! I need to find 30 pieces of silver!

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  7. This is a great response! And definitely we all need to do what's best for our families, but there is something to be said for trying to implement the liturgical year and Catholic culture in our homes, even when it may mean an inconvenience of not doing an egg hunt on Holy Saturday! I also think it would be really cool if we all tried to get our Catholic parishes to do Eastery things during Easter! It's all fine and dandy when parishes host egg hunts on Easter Sunday, but it seems like in many instances, the big Easter celebrations (aside from the liturgy itself) stop after that day. I love Easter, and I love how the glorious season goes for 50 days-all of our parishes should be places of celebration and parties for those 50 days!

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  8. This is very well written and exactly how I feel but I have a delimma: my family is not Christian (I converted in college), but celebrate Easter in a "secular" way (Easter Bunny being the center of the celebration)... For years, my family (my parents and grandparents) has hosted a big family reunion on Holy Saturday at the family ranch. We do a big pot luck lunch and then the adults hide Easter eggs for the kids. People come from all over for our one family reunion of the year. There's a few Christians in the family, but no Catholics and certainly nobody who seems concerned about the fact that it's Holy Saturday. Now that I have my own family (husband and 10 month old son), I just don't know what to do. We live close to the ranch and are even expected to help get ready for the celebration. My family hardly understands the faith at all, let alone the fact that Holy Saturday is a day for quiet reflection on the death of Jesus... This year we've already committed to going to the reunion, but any advice on how to handle this in the future as we try to teach our son the faith and living liturgically? I dream of being able to do it like you say, and I think that's what would be best for him and our faith too, but I just don't feel right skipping the reunion the my family is hosting. :/ I guess I could say #convertproblems...

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    1. I think in a case like yours it's wise to pick your battles. So, since you have to fast and CAN'T eat meat on Good Friday, and you MUST go to Mass on Easter Sunday, those are probably the battles to pick.

      You can make the sacrifice of not observing Holy Saturday in exactly the way you'd prefer, and offer that to God. You can be a cheerful contributor to the work.

      If I were in your position, and I thought I could do it without causing whole family strife, I'd have my older kids collect their eggs and candy, but wait until Easter to eat them. I think making sacrifices with joy and being religious but still being fun is a really good way to evangelize friends and extended family.

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    2. Thank you, Kendra! This advice makes sense. I've always been so torn about this and felt like a "bad" Catholic for attending the reunion. I appreciate you perspective and encouragement :)

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    3. Since they're celebrating secularly anyways, would it be possible to suggest they hold the reunion on the Saturday AFTER Easter in the future? Easter's date changes anyways, so it's not like they choose the exact same date every year. Plus, this would still be a Saturday, so the convenience of the day wouldn't change. You could argue that you want to celebrate a day DURING Easter with all the family, and this would be more in keeping with that. If they are unwilling to be accommodating to your faith, then perhaps yielding like Kendra suggested above is the best?

      -Adelaide

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    4. That's a good idea too - not sure if the family will want to change the tradition since it's been happening for so long, but it may not hurt to ask in the future of the conversation comes up

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  9. I am also a convert. My extended family is baptist, if they have any faith at all. Holy Saturday is a compromise-- it appeases my moms need to see us for Easter, while letting us have time for Mass and my husbands side of the family on Sunday. I don't love it but I have to remember that my mom just really doesn't understand and to change it becomes an argument because she feels that we don't love her/want to spend time with her. She won't be around forever so, it is one thing I have to let go. Though it would be my preference to not celebrate two days in a row and spend Saturday in reflection--it is also a sort of sacrifice because I can't do things the way I want! And thankfully, as Kendra said, we aren't locked into one way by the church.

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    1. It's good to know that I'm not the only one in this type of boat! Don't you ever just wish that the whole world could be Catholic? It would make life a bit easier... But I guess that's what they call Heaven ;). This is helpful advice and good to know how you handle a similar situation!

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    2. my husband's side of the family is also mostly non-Catholic, and also has a big easter dinner every year on Holy Saturday. We usually do attend. I'd like a Holy Saturday of quiet reflection, and maybe we will rethink things when the kids are old enough to go to the vigil, but for now, we like the chance to see family that we only see a oouple of times a year.

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  11. Great post! I'm grateful to be reminded of what a reverent and solemn day Holy Saturday is supposed to be.

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  12. Like many PP, I'm a convert too. Holy Saturday is extra special time because it brings to mind the hours waiting to join the Church at Easter Vigil, in addition to reflecting on Christ's death and absence from the world. (The year I joined the Church my husband actually took the kids to the parish egg hunt because it was something to do while I was busy at church with all the pre-Easter Vigil events.)

    We usually have a lot of out of town guests with various approaches to Holy Saturday and our observance reflects that. We usually don't go to the parish egg hunt because it doesn't feel right, but under certain circumstances, I'm sure we would.

    I love your response Kendra, LOVE the graphic, & especially love the idea of differentiating between the foods served on Good Friday and Holy Saturday vs. Easter. The one area I would be interested to hear more on is the impact that not attending events like this (& the others she alluded to) might have on Meredith's family's relationship with the parish community. As a young family, especially one that is not homeschooling and doesn't have children in CCD yet, it can be a challenge to connect with other families in the parish.

    Parish family events provide a wonderful way to make those connections with other Catholic families. It has been so good for my family to be close friends with other family's with a strong Catholic faith.

    Meredith might find that other families agree with her and she may be able to suggest that the date of the egg hunt be moved. As you mentioned, Easter Saturday would be perfect! (This year when our priest asked for feedback on the Christmas services, I mentioned that I would like to have the catechist Christmas party during Christmas, not advent. Even if it doesn't happen, it was nice to be able to share.)

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  13. I'm frustrated about this because my husband's family, the Methodist side, who we always get together with for Easter has decided to celebrate Holy Saturday this year to accommodate family traveling back home Sunday after church. I was asked about it, but didn't feel comfortable speaking up. Next year I will. I don't want the feast and egg hunt and family party to be the day before, while Christ is still in the tomb. For this year I'll be putting on my happy face though.

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    1. A priest told me once, because I've had similar challenges of relatives celebrating holidays when convenient even when it's not liturgically appropriate, that it would be a sacrifice for me to put on a happy face and keep the peace. He wasn't suggesting people shouldn't "stand up" for living lent etc but in those moments when it can't be done without huge conflict we can trust that God knows our hearts and us being loving and merciful is part of living our faith too. Thank you, as always Kendra, for such a great post and the best graphic!

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  14. I totally agree with not participating on Holy Saturday, but what about egg hunts the week before? It's still Lent, but if you don't do it then, you will just have to forgo them altogether unless you can organize one during the actual Easter season. Thoughts?

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    1. I wouldn't. Not during Lent. During Lent, we do celebrate the liturgical feasts, we attend birthday parties, we celebrate Sundays. But Lent's Lent and Easter's Easter, and I think there's plenty of Easter time to have Easter egg hunts.

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  15. This is the funniest picture I have ever seen! Brilliant job, Kendra!

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  16. Hi! Just came across your blog. In Spain Holy Week are big words and Holy Saturday is for me a day for silence and meditation, which leads to Glorious Sunday with beautiful processions with Virgin Mary facing Jesus! Where I live we eat special Easter sweet buns the First and Second Monday of Easter, and they are bank holidays

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  17. I love that you reposted this on Twitter. I was just reminded of this post when I read last week's bulletin for our parish and saw that our parish KofC is sponsoring an egg hunt...the weekend before Easter!!!
    My reaction: $&@#%!
    My husband: "Well, we don't have the *most* reverent parish..." (He's right, and we plan to move anyway within the next two years to a much more reverent parish & diocese.)
    My response: "But if the ladies who read Catholic All Year 'get it,' how does our pastor, parish council, and KofC NOT get it. This isn't a hard one, IMHO..."
    Husband: (Pause) "...Yep."

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