Easter has always been a special holiday in our family and I’ll always have special memories of our Easter celebrations.
The festivities started on Good Friday. My mother made us fast until noon and we weren’t allowed to eat meat for the rest of the day.
As a child, I didn’t understand why my mother was torturing us like this. All I knew was that I really wanted a bowl of Lucky Charms and I couldn’t have it.
We’d spend the rest of Friday and Saturday searching for the perfect Easter outfits. My sister would get a puffy dress complete with gloves and a bonnet and I’d get a sharp three-piece polyester suit and some shiny shoes.
On Easter morning, my mother had another way to torture us: The Sunrise Service.
We had to get up at 5 am on Sunday morning in order to get to the church service by 6 am. To this day, I cannot tell you what happened during those services because I was always half-asleep.
After the service, we’d have a huge breakfast buffet. The grandma’s in the church made the food and it was so good that it almost made up for having to wake up that early.
For most people, that service would have completed their Easter worship experience. Not our family.
We had to attend the “real” worship service at 10 am which lasted about 3-4 hours (no joke!)
This was the service where people who never set foot in a church the rest of the year piled in by the legions. We always had to scramble to find additional seating to accommodate them.
The deacons filled the sanctuary with folding chairs, benches, and stools. The pastor, who lived next door, brought over some of his personal furniture. After all of the additional seating was in place, the sanctuary looked like a secondhand furniture store.
Watching the people march into the sanctuary wearing their finest Easter outfits was always a joy. I’d look across the congregation and see an ocean of lacy dresses, big hats, and fine suits.
The service began with a few hymns followed by the Children’s Easter Recital. During the program, all of the kids gave Easter speeches which consisted of Bible verses or motivational phrases that we had to memorize.
Toddlers had to memorize short passages such as “Jesus wept” while the older kids had to memorize longer passages such as The New Testament.
I remember how nervous I felt the first time I had to say my speech. It was a passage from Romans 12:2: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
In the weeks before Easter, I had to demonstrate my progress to my mother. There was no way I was going to embarrass her on Easter Sunday.
Although I managed to make it through without a hitch, many kids weren’t as lucky.
It was hard to watch as several kids stood frozen when it was their turn to speak. Parents tried to help their children by mouthing their lines, and Elders in the church would yell words of encouragement such as “Take your time baby.” Despite these prompts, many kids were reduced to tears.
Of course, you had those kids who were natural performers and dazzled the audience with their soliloquies. Their efforts were treated to choruses of “Amens!” “Praise God!” and “That kid is gonna be a preacher!”
After church, we were allowed to open our Easter baskets and chocolate-covered bunnies. The 1980s versions of these items were not nearly as fancy as today’s versions, but I was grateful for my bounty of sweets and cheap plastic toys.
We ended the day with my mom’s cooking a huge Easter feast complete with baked ham, pot roast, and creole side dishes.
Easter for my kids is much more subdued.
Although we do spend several hours at church on Easter morning, no one has to wake up at the crack of dawn to attend service.
When we return home from church, the kids tear into their Easter candy and we have an Easter egg hunt.
Later in the afternoon, we have an Easter meal with our extended family where the grandparents spoil the kids with more candy, toys, money, and Easter baskets.
Easter will always be a special holiday for me not only because of its religious significance to my family but also because my daughter was born on the night before Easter.
Her birth will always be the second Easter miracle that I celebrate.
Frederick J. Goodall, Mocha Man Style Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief