March 11, 2013 by FHElessons
For years I struggled to find a tradition for what my family would eat for dinner on Easter Sunday. I wanted something that was special, since it was a special holiday, but I also didn’t want to spend all day in the kitchen cooking. And I didn’t want to repeat the same meal we had for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Over the years we tried a variety of different things, but nothing really seemed perfect enough to become a tradition.
Then one year my mother got invited to participate in a Passover meal. I can’t remember exactly, but I kind of think it was a group of Christians who were having their own Passover Seder for whatever reason. She told me about all the foods she ate there and how each was symbolic of some part of the story of the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt. That year I was teaching Old Testament to the youth in Sunday School, and we just happened to be studying the Exodus, so I decided to bring a small Passover meal for them to help teach the story. The kids really enjoyed it, and that gave me the idea to do a similar type of meal for my family for Easter. (In fact, I think my mother may even have been the one who suggested it to me. I can’t remember exactly.)
Anyway, from that chain of events was born the meal that has become the traditional Easter dinner for my family ever since. Of course, since this meal is for Easter and not for Passover, I wanted the symbols represented by my foods to relate to Jesus Christ and His Atonement and Resurrection rather than to the story of the Exodus. Because the Exodus followed the miracle of the Israelites being “passed over” by the Angel of Death, many of the symbols from the Passover Seder actually tie in really well with the Atonement and Resurrection, which allow all of us to be “passed over” for both spiritual and physical death.
The night before Christ’s Atonement and Crucifixion, He ate a Passover meal with his disciples. We call this meal The Last Supper, in part because it was Christ’s last meal before His death, but also because it was the last Passover meal needed since the Law of Moses would shortly be fulfilled. Jesus would offer Himself as the sacrificial lamb for us all, thus eliminating the need for a meal where a sacrificial lamb was eaten in preparation for the Atonement.
Although we no longer need to follow the tradition of the Passover meal, I felt that a meal involving symbols would be a way to remind my family of the true meaning of Easter, something to take the focus away from candy and baskets and center our holiday around Christ.
When the Jews celebrate Passover, they make their dinner table beautiful, setting it with their best china and table linens. When the family gathers around the table, the tradition is for the youngest child to ask questions of the patriarch of the family to get the discussion going about the symbolic nature of the meal. The questions begin with, “Why is this night different from all other nights?”
If you have young children at home, I think it would be a wonderful tradition to begin your Easter meal by letting the youngest child ask, “Why is this day different from all other days?” Of course, there are many ways that you could present your symbolic foods, tell the story of Easter, and teach about the Atonement with your meal. If you begin this tradition when your children are young, they will probably be very receptive to this question/answer format and will hopefully continue the tradition throughout their lives. But if you begin holding this Easter dinner tradition when your children are older, you may have to be creative with how it is done. Perhaps the parents will have to ask the questions of the children. Perhaps you will just print some little signs to place on each platter of food, stating the symbols that go with that dish. However you choose to teach your children, here are some ideas of foods you might serve that can be symbolic of the true meaning of the Easter holiday:
Bitter herbs are part of the Jewish Passover, and one of the questions the youngest child might ask is, “Why, on all other nights, do we eat all kinds of vegetables, but on this night we eat only bitter herbs?” For the Passover meal, the bitter herbs represent the bitterness of slavery, when the Israelites were in bondage to the Egyptians.
For my Easter dinner, I thought bitter herbs would also be appropriate; however, I chose to let them represent the bitterness of sin. To obtain bitter herbs, you can pick some dandelion greens from your yard or purchase some horseradish or other bitter greens from the grocery store. I will sometimes just buy the “spring mix” salad mix and pick out the bitter greens from there.
Unfortunately, I had some difficulty getting my children to eat the bitter herbs since they taste nasty! So, I altered my meal a little and paired the bitter herbs with a scoop of fruit sorbet.
The symbol here is that while the herbs represent the bitterness of sin and death, the sorbet represents the sweetness of forgiveness and Eternal Life. You can have someone ask the question, “Why do we eat bitter herbs and sorbet on Easter?” and the answer can be, “Before Christ came to Earth, we were subject to the bitterness of both physical and spiritual death. We eat the bitter herbs to remind us of that, but then we follow them quickly with the sweet sorbet. Jesus Christ atoned for our sins so that we might be forgiven of our sins and be able to return again to our Heavenly Father’s presence. He was resurrected so that we might also be reunited with our bodies after death. The sweetness of Christ’s gift to us washes away all the bitterness of sin and death.”
Cranberry Juice and Water
During the Passover meal, Jews drink 4 glasses of wine at certain stages of the meal to represent the 4 stages of redemption experienced by the Israelites. For our Easter dinner, I chose 2 glasses – one filled with cranberry juice and the other with water. Together these represent that, because of Jesus Christ, though our sins be as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow. If you don’t like cranberry juice or water, you could, of course, use any red drink and any clear drink. I’ve actually altered ours a little to include cranberry juice and ginger ale. Although ginger ale isn’t totally clear, the combination of cranberry juice and ginger ale just happens to be my youngest daughter’s very favorite drink.
So, even though it doesn’t make for a perfect symbol, it makes for a happy daughter, which is also important! You could have someone ask why we drink these drinks on Easter and answer, “Easter time is when we remember that Jesus Christ atoned for our sins. The red and white drinks remind us that ‘Although our sins be as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow’ because of this wonderful gift that Christ has given us.”
When Jewish children ask their father during the Passover meal, “Why, on this night, do we eat only unleavened bread?”, their father might reply, “To remind us of the haste with which the Jews of old had to leave Egypt. They had no time for their bread to rise.”
When Christian children ask about the bread for this special Easter meal, their father will tell them that like Christ, our Lord, this bread has lain in the tomb for 3 days until Easter Sunday, when the bread was permitted to rise. Jesus Christ rose again on the third day. What I have been doing all these years is mixing up my bread dough on Friday and then placing the loaves in the fridge (the tomb) until Sunday. On Easter Sunday I would get the loaves out and let them rise and then bake them. I will include my recipe at the end of this post with the rest of the recipes for this meal if you choose to make this same type of bread. If making homemade bread makes you feel overwhelmed, I think you could also probably take some Rhodes rolls out on Friday, place them on a baking sheet, cover them, and then let them finish rising and bake on Sunday. I haven’t tried it, but, in theory, it seems like it would work.
One more idea that might be even easier and better: When asking me about my Passover Inspired Easter dinner, my sister thought I made pita bread for the meal. When she suggested it, I got to thinking that perhaps pita bread is an even better symbol of Easter.
Look at my picture of pita bread above. The insides are hollow, just like an empty tomb! You could have your child ask, “Why do we eat pita bread on Easter? and you could answer, “To remind us of the empty tomb after Jesus was resurrected.” I will include my recipe for homemade pita bread below. It’s what you see pictured above. However, if you don’t want to spend the time to make homemade bread on Easter, you can always purchase some store bought pita bread beforehand.
Herbed Rice or Couscous or Potatoes
I have been making these spiced potato cubes for my Easter meal because they are super yummy (recipe below). My recipe actually doesn’t have that many spices in it, but you could add whatever spices sound good to you. On Easter morning, the women took spices to anoint the body of Christ. The spices in this food will remind us of their devotion as well as the empty tomb that they found when they arrived. Let us follow their example in being devoted to our Lord and God.
Here are a couple more options for foods that have spices in them: A box of herbed couscous or Uncle Ben’s long grain and wild rice.
If you look at the box of the Uncle Ben’s rice, you will see that it has a blend of 27 herbs and spices, which is perfect for this symbol! It also makes for an easy meal, which is one of our goals, right?
The Jews eat a mixture of apples and nuts with honey at their Passover Seder to represent the mortar used in building by the Israelite slaves. At our Easter dinner, we’ll have a fruit plate to represent Christ, who is Himself the fruit of the Tree of Life, the sweetest of all fruit. When we eat of this fruit, we need never hunger again.
Let’s face it, you’re going to have a bunch of Easter eggs lying around on this day. Might as well add them to your dinner in the form of deviled eggs or just slice them up with some salt. The Jewish Passover meal includes a roasted egg as a symbol of life and continued existence. We can use the same meaning for our meal since, because of Christ’s Atonement, we can all experience Eternal Life. One time I tried to say that the colored, outer shell represented the stain of our sins, but that because of the Atonement, that stain can be peeled away to reveal the pure white body beneath. Everyone said I was reaching too far with that symbol, though, so do what you will.
This picture is a piece of grilled Mahi with mango salsa, and I used it here because it’s the only picture of fish that I happened to have. We usually have salmon for our Easter meal, though. Of course you could serve whatever kind of fish your family likes. To make the meal special, you could get something that you usually can’t afford, like ahi tuna or anything fancy.
When your children ask, “Why do we eat fish for our Easter dinner”, you can respond, “Christ is the Fisher of Men. As we eat this fish, let us remember to follow Him and lead others to follow Him as well.”
What I have pictured above is a kind of lamb kabob called Souvalaki. I will include the recipe below. It is super yummy and would go very well with the pita bread, if you choose to serve that. However, it is fairly time intensive because it involves buying a leg of lamb (which are usually quite fatty) and cutting it up into chunks. Trying to cut out all the fat takes some time.
Another idea is just to make some lamb chops. When our kids were growing up, I tried to make steak about once a week since one of our daughters is a runner, and I wanted to get a lot of protein into her. The first time we served our kids lamb chops, they asked, “Why don’t we always have lamb instead of steak?” The answer was that lamb costs about $10 per pound! So, if you’re looking for something really special for your Easter meal that you usually wouldn’t be able to afford, lamb chops make a good choice. They are fairly quick and easy to prepare as well. Here’s a picture of some served over garlic mashed potatoes, which is another dish that could work for the symbol with the spices.
Of course, lamb has been the centerpiece of the Passover meal since the beginning. It was meant to represent Christ who would be sacrificed for our sins. The Jews of ancient times would choose the first and best of the flock to sacrifice – it had to be a lamb without blemish.
For our Easter meal, let us teach our children that Easter is all about the Lamb of God, who was slain for our sins. Although He was without sin Himself, He allowed Himself to be slain so that He could effect our Atonement and Resurrection. Let us always remember His sacrifice, especially today on this Easter Sunday. Let us continually strive to repent and come unto Him so that His sacrifice for us is not in vain.
I hope that you have been able to find some ideas here that will work for your own Easter dinner and will help you to teach your children about the true meaning of Easter. I leave you my testimony that Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God who was slain for our sins. Because of His Atonement, we can be forgiven of our sins if we repent, and we can once again be united with our Father in Heaven. As Jesus was the first to be resurrected, we too can be resurrected after death. Christ has overcome both physical and spiritual death for us. He has made it possible for us to have Eternal Life.
Recipes (click on each recipe to download it):