Easter is arguably the most significant holiday in the Christian calendar. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the foundation on which the Christian faith is built. I find it interesting that our society has chosen to make Christmas a much more flamboyant holiday than Easter.
Easter comes in a bundle which includes Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent; Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter; and Good Friday, the Friday before Easter. The 40-day season of Lent officially ends the day before Easter Sunday. It is interesting to note that Sundays are not included in the 40-day count leading up to Easter. Easter Sunday then becomes the first day of the 50-day Easter season, which ends on Pentecost Sunday. Clearly the Christian calendar provides ample opportunity for celebration on both sides of this sacred day.
There is evidence that a season of Lent was observed in the Apostolic era, as far back as A.D. 330. Some believers viewed it as an imitation or remembrance of the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness fasting and dealing with temptation. Others viewed Lent as a time of soul-searching, repentance, reflection and “taking stock” of one’s values and practices.
For a period of time, beginning in the 16th century, Anabaptists chose not to celebrate most of the holidays traditionally observed in the Christian calendar. Evidently this had to do with a perception that these holidays were in fact creations of the State rather than the Church.
Today some Mennonite churches celebrate Lent as a season of reflection, preparation for the celebrations of Good Friday and Easter, and in some cases, fasting. Fasting may involve giving up certain foods or it may involve avoiding certain activities and replacing those activities with something that helps them prepare for Good Friday and Easter.
No doubt all Mennonite churches celebrate Good Friday and Easter. Some may also have a communion service on Maundy Thursday, and others may also have a worship service on Easter Monday. Very few, if any, would still have a service on the Tuesday after Easter, which was actually a practice in the past.
One of the food traditions Mennonites have picked up during their time in Ukraine/Russia is that of enjoying Paska on and around Easter. Paska is the Ukrainian name for an Easter bread common to that culture and still common to the Russian Mennonite culture as well. Our curators are currently doing research for an exhibit in the Gerhard Ens Gallery that will speak to our 2015 theme of Mennonite Food: Tastes in Transition. Perhaps at some time during this exhibit, which will open by May 1, guests may be offered a sample of this tasty Easter bread.