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