(Welcome Legendarium podcast listeners. I’m very sorry, but my geekery is liturgical in nature today and then I’m breaking for the Triduum.)
Yesterday (…maybe it was Monday? My days are blurring together at this point) I read this very nice post about Holy Week traditions at Catholic Culture and thought it was very interesting. We have almost no Holy Week/Easter traditions in either of our families. I only started instituting traditions when we bought our house and I could insist that Easter was the holiday that we got to spend in our own home, and people could come to us if they wished.
Anyway. I’m just making things up as I go along here, with only my sense of aesthetics and the Missal to guide me. I’m going to use the same format as Jennifer used in her article, and I’d love to see what other people do!
Our To-Do List:
Easter Baskets This year has the special task for Himself of finishing our Easter baskets. When I was a child, my grandfather, who was a woodworker until his asthma prevented him from enjoying his hobby any longer, made us all beautiful wooden Easter baskets. I still have mine – it is the lone remaining basket with an intact handle. The ends are heart shaped, with the points cut off about halfway up, and the sides are simple slats. My parents had a big one, and us kids had little ones. A few years ago, I traced the end pieces of both big and little baskets. This year, Himself finally got a jig saw and has started cutting them out. They will end up a little different because he couldn’t find slatting, and has settled on using some molding strips that are approximately the right size. This is one Easter thing from my childhood that I’m glad to preserve in my own home. We weren’t Catholic/practicing, so Easter baskets are all I have.
Shopping I’ve done a good job of stretching the basket-filling purchases out across Lent, and an even better job of not eating any of it even though it’s sitting up there, hidden in the pantry taunting me. But I still have the grocery shopping to do for the Triduum.
Clothing The men-folk are well set. David’s blazer still fits, Raphael is going in pajamas since we attend the Vigil, and there’s no use in dressing him up. But me… I have no idea what I’m wearing. None of my dresses fit. I guess I need to go shopping at some point. Oh how I hate shopping.
Music I need to practice the two chanted Lamentations of Jeremiah for Tenebrae. This means sitting at the keyboard and tinkling out what notes I ought to be hitting, since I’m not a great singer. But so very worth it.
Liturgical Preparations This year, thanks to the complicating factor of work, we won’t be able to attend the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. I’m a little bummed out by this, but this is how it goes. We will substitute solemn Vespers at home after dinner. There’s a new Paschal candle for the home to be made, but I have unbleached tea lights for Tenebrae.
Baking I do almost all my Easter baking on Holy Saturday, as well as meal prep for our feast on Sunday. This works out very well, and my menu is such that it minimizes the actual work of cooking on Easter to almost nothing. It does make Holy Saturday somewhat the frenzy of cooking, though. Outside of this, I only have pan di ramerino to make this year. It’s a new recipe – if we like them they will become traditional.
Our parish does not have an Easter basket blessing. Yes, this is disappointing.
Cleaning I’ll be honest. Our house looks like a recovering federal disaster area. Raphael is in a stage of "how dare you put me down to do any housework whatsoever" stage and is very screamy about it. This is stressful, and cleaning is stressful, and the stresses stack. My goal is to have the public areas of the house properly cleaned, and the disorganized messes of game room and Room of Doom to be isolated and contained. The bedrooms, thankfully, are already clean and we have been good (so far) about keeping them in good condition.
Daily Life Interruptions Normally, I work Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday on Holy Week, so I am home to attend to all them minutiae of the Triduum. But this year, it’s not working out – I am working Wednesday-Thursday-Friday. This caused quite a rumpus in our cooking and liturgical schedule, and things have been appropriately pared down.
The Unfolding of Holy Week:
5th Sunday of Lent My ultimate intention is to cover all our crucifixes and statues. This year I’ve gotten as far as purchasing the purple cloth to make covers. I had David go make a tally of how many we need, and he came back with 13. Which has frightened me away from my sewing machine.
Also, around but not on this Sunday, I buy and label my eggs for hardboiling, so they will peel more easily.
Palm Sunday Again, the intention is to have the house cleaned before Palm Sunday. Given the general state of things, we had made good inroads by Palm Sunday, but weren’t done. I would like very much to make intensive spring cleaning part of our Lent, but we aren’t quite there yet. This Lent was also complicated by the Headcold of Dreadful Doom laying the whole house low for a solid month, and contributing to the general disorder.
One newly instituted tradition for this day is watching The Ten Commandments.
Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of Holy Week Normally, I’m working these days. Otherwise, these days are devoted to finishing up lingering projects, cleaning, and sundry. Wednesday is my usual day to do the grocery shopping. All of this is messed up this year, but we got quite a bit more cleaning done.
Holy Thursday I am only this year turning my attention to growing traditions for Holy Thursday. I didn’t want to do a Christian Seder type meal, but have decided to keep the spirit of the Passover meal by having a (nice) meal that is quickly prepared, so we can eat and then go to the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.
The menu I’ve decided on is grilled steaks, twice baked potatoes, sautéed spinach, unleavened bread, pan di ramerino, and dessert. Strawberry shortcake, maybe. All (except the pan di ramerino) dishes which can me made in advance or in a relative hurry in anticipation of leaving for Mass.
This year, we won’t be able to make Mass, so we will substitute with solemn Vespers at home. At bedtime, I extinguish the vigil lamp, and it remains unlit until we come home from the Vigil.
As far as Easter preparation goes, we also cook our saved onion skins into red dye on Holy Thursday, but the actual dying of eggs doesn’t take place till Holy Saturday.
Good Friday Liturgically, we start the day with Tenebrae. Last year, I put together a home Tenebrae for the current Missal, and Himself surprised me earlier in Lent by asking if we were going to do it again this year. I liked it very much, but I wasn’t sure anyone else had. It uses seven candles, and we use votives set across the oratory instead of a hearse. Our oratory is too small for a hearse!
Little known fact – Mass starts in the evening on Holy Thursday, but doesn’t end until the closing of the Easter Vigil in the wee smas of Sunday. So technically, the Triduum is one long extended liturgy. Keeping this in mind, I omitted the Invitatory and combined Lauds and the Office of Readings in the fashion prescribed in the GILH. Since there is no set hymn (and because a hymn at all feels odd here) we use one of Fr. Weber’s settings of the Lamentation of Jeremiah.
David’s favorite part here is the strepitus (we use blocks).
Other than this, we try to keep Good Friday somber and restrained. It’s hard to do, since my family feels it’s just one extra day off to spend playing board games and enjoying ourselves. If the boys are up to it and the timing works out, we will try to go to the Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion, otherwise more solemn Vespers at home.. Of course this year on Friday, I end up having to work a half day, so that adds a penitential fillip of it’s own to procedings.
Holy Saturday More Tenebrae this morning. It makes me sad, this is the one liturgical celebration of the year that does not have a properly translated Collect. I’m resolved not to print out Tenebrae booklets until it does.
Then it’s egg dying, and baking, and marinating meats, roasting potatoes and onions, making spanakopita filling… It’s a frenzy of baking and cooking all day, so that Easter itself is calm and relaxed.
At some point during the day, I give the vigil lamp a good cleaning and a new wick and fresh oil.
In the evening, we go to the Vigil. We always go to the Vigil, partly because the morning Masses are much more crowded, and partly because I love it. And really, David isn’t any worse behaved at the Vigil, even with it’s length, versus any other Mass we might attend.
This year, the congregation gets it’s proper due and we will have tapers to receive light from the Easter candle. Our previous pastor did not let us have them, for parsimonious reasons that don’t really bear repeating.
Easter Sunday Morning starts with Lauds and Bread of Easter Brightness and hardboiled eggs and coffee. Then Himself goes off to help the Knights direct traffic at the church for a little while, and I start the cooking and police the amount of candy consumed from the Easter baskets.
The menu is roasted leg of lamb, rosemary roasted potatoes and cippolini onions, asparagus, spanakopita, hardboiled eggs, and bread. For dessert there’s lemon ricotta pie (experimental this year, but I have high hopes for it) and baptism cake baked in a lamb mold (italian cream cake, which I make for every baptism and baptism anniversary) and koulourakia spiced with mahleb.
We eat at around 1, then play board games until everyone is tired and decides to go home.
Things I Love I love the tactility of it all. Really, the only things that stress me out are the necessary cleaning and the sartorial arrangements. The rest of it is largely a delight. David’s favorite part is the Easter bread, which he has remembered vividly since he was three.
And I love how we’ve incorporated the Liturgy of the Hours into it all. Even if we can’t make it to the various Triduum services, we can still participate in the liturgical life of this season with Vespers and Tenebrae at home.
Things That Need Work I’m not good at decorating my house (not even at Christmas). So the things look pretty much like they always do, only (a lot) cleaner. And this feels wrong, but I’m not good at decorating and don’t know what to do about it, and don’t like lots of clutter anyway.
And I need to learn to plan ahead properly and stop embracing projects during Holy Week! Himself has all the slats cut for the baskets and is starting to experiment with the jig saw, but this still has significant disaster potential written all over it.