I live in Utah. We don’t hear much about Lent around here. I had to google why people put ashes on their foreheads when I first saw it on a TV show. Since joining the homeschool community, I’ve started to hear much more about it thanks to those I interact with online and in my book group. If you are unfamiliar with Lent, this is a good synopsis and this is a good video introduction.
Latter-day Saints don’t observe Lent. Its origins are contested and not all other Christian denominations observe it. As it was not restored with the Gospel of Jesus Christ through Joseph Smith, we haven’t adopted it. Those who observe Lent have traditionally used it as a time of fasting, renewal, and preparation for baptism in light of the approaching Easter holiday. Latter-day Saints fast monthly, renew covenants weekly, and can prepare for baptism any time of the year. However, I have often wished we did a little better job of preparing for Easter. It is our most holy holiday—the celebration of Christ’s triumph over death and hell! If you have been dissatisfied with cultural Mormonism’s preparations for Easter (as I have), perhaps we can learn a little something from our friends who observe Lent.
The following are only thoughts and ideas. Hopefully you will find an idea that resonates with you.
Separating Christ from Commotion
Easter always sneaks up on me. Is it in March or April? When’s the full moon? Who has a calendar? Awareness of the Lenten season will definitely help with this sort of Easter-confusion. Even a slight awareness of Ash Wednesday (even if it’s passed) will help ensure that you can adequately prepare for Palm Sunday, the Holy Week, and thus Easter.
Turning Easter into more of a season (like Christmas) allows for the focus of Easter to be on Christ and not the Easter Bunny. I read of a family that awoke to their Easter baskets on the first day of spring instead of on Easter. They had their egg hunt that day as well as a picnic. What a good idea! This scheme also eliminates the trouble that arises when Easter falls on fast Sunday.
Depending on your local climate, the days leading up to Easter can become associated with gardening traditions in your home: preparing your garden for planting, sowing seeds indoors/outdoors, watching for signs of new life (baby animals/leaves/shoots/buds/etc.). These actions all have beautiful gospel parallels that can help bring Easter into the surrounding season.
A Lenten fast is not as well-defined as LDS fasts are:
Some people have been known to go without food for days. But that’s not the only way to fast. You can fast by cutting out some of the things in your life that distract you from God. Some Christians use the whole 40 days to fast from candy, TV, soft drinks, cigarettes or meat as a way to purify their bodies and lives. You might skip one meal a day and use that time to pray instead. Or you can give up some activity like worry or reality TV to spend time outside enjoying God’s creation. What do you need to let go of or “fast” from in order to focus on God? What clutters your calendar and life? How can you simplify your life in terms of what you eat, wear or do? (read more)
I like the idea of introducing our families to alternative ways of fasting. While 24 hours without food and water is the ideal LDS fast, circumstances do arise when a modified fast is appropriate (pregnancy, breastfeeding, illness, individual needs, etc.). Discussing the “why” behind the “how” could be done as part of a Family Home Evening lesson or part of a family “fast” from something everyone agrees upon.
Lenten fasts typically last 40 days; however, these 40 days are not consecutive and their order varies by denomination. There are 46 days between Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent) and Easter. Many fast Monday–Saturday but not on the six Sundays of Lent. “Sundays in Lent are not counted in the forty days because each Sunday represents a ‘mini-Easter’ and the reverent spirit of Lent is tempered with joyful anticipation of the Resurrection” (read more). I like the idea that Sunday is a day of inclusion and feasting instead of a day of exclusion and burden. How many of our children see an LDS fast Sunday as something to be celebrated? By choosing to “fast” from something during Monday–Saturday, Sunday could become something to look forward to for those who see Sunday as a burden.
Creating a Feast Table
I don’t think a Feast Table is a traditional part of Lent, but I picked it up from a Catholic blogger who incorporates it into her Lenten season, and I liked it so much that I am sharing it here. The original idea of the Feast Table was to set up an area of the home devoted to seasonal displays that reflect the rhythm and feasts of the liturgical year. As much as I long for an LDS liturgical year, that is not going happen, so instead I like to think of Charlotte Mason’s idea of “spreading the feast:”
To introduce children to literature is to install them in a very rich and glorious kingdom, to bring a continual holiday to their doors, to lay before them a feast exquisitely served. But they must learn to know literature by being familiar with it from the very first. A child’s intercourse must always be with good books, the best that we can find. CM 6:51
Setting up a Feast Table with quality literature about Christ/Easter/spring/etc. is a very Charlotte Mason way to help prepare for the Easter season. You can also add items from your nature outings as part of your seasonal display. See our list of appropriate Easter books. Another option is to incorporate these books into a morning time routine. See some examples of Feast Tables here.
I hope that these thoughts have helped encourage your own creativity. Let the Holy Spirit guide as you decide whether a more intentional approach to Easter is right for your family. I welcome your comments!
Jessi Vandagriff loves learning, teaching, and spending time with her husband and two young children. She runs a variety of websites, including this one. Her free, Charlotte-Mason-inspired website for teaching children to sing can be found at www.singsolfa.com. She has ambitions to become a decent gardener, hiker, and nature journaler.