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My husband and I always wanted Easter to be a Big Deal. One year, we tried kite flying at the beach to symbolize Christ’s arising from the dead. Unfortunately, there was no wind, and our kite dragging along in the sand didn’t quite deliver the message we’d hoped. So we continued our search for Easter traditions that didn’t depend so heavily on the weather.
My husband has Jewish roots, so for several years, I hosted a traditional Jewish Seder with friends for Passover. A Jewish Seder is a ritual meal eaten on the first night of Passover. All the generations of a Jewish family gather together for this meal to retell the story of their ancestors’ liberation from slavery in Egypt while eating special symbolic foods.
Our family and friends enjoyed the symbolism of our ceremonial Passover meal, but one year, I thought, I love the idea of a Seder, but I wish I were teaching my family about Christ’s passion and resurrection, too. So I put together an Easter version of a Seder which uses symbolic foods and scripture stories to retell the last week of Christ’s life.
We’ve been having a Seder before Easter dinner for four years running now, with marvelous success. The kids love the interactive storytelling, and so do their parents.
Below you’ll find the program and a list of all the items needed for the Seder. At the Seder, everyone sits at their own place setting with all the symbolic foods and objects and then takes turns reading the program. I try to make the Seder portions very small so everyone has room for ham, potatoes, and red velvet lamb cake after the program.
All of the scriptural text is taken from the Gospels in the King James version of the Bible. For young children, it may work best to limit each day of Christ’s final week to just one item/activity.
Easter Seder Readings and Instructions
Sunday: Palm leaves
- On Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. The people gave him a royal entry by throwing their clothes and palm leaves on his path.
Everyone throws a palm leaf on the ground and together they say: “Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.” (Matt. 20: 9)
Monday: Figs and Coins
- Jesus cursed a fig tree for not bringing forth good fruit. We must bring forth the good fruit of good works and repentance so we will not wither.
Everyone eats a fig (or fig jam on a cracker).
- Jesus cleansed the temple by throwing out the money changers who had polluted the temple with their priestcraft and stealing. Jesus said, “Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? But ye have made it a den of thieves.” (Mark 11: 17)
Everyone throws coins over their shoulder.
Tuesday: Olives and Oil
- Jesus taught in the temple and on the Mount of Olives. He taught us to pray in faith, to forgive others so that Father in Heaven will forgive us, and to prepare ourselves and the world for His second coming. Jesus said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Mark 12: 30-31)
Everyone eats an olive.
- A woman anointed Jesus with a box of very expensive ointment. The disciples scoffed at this waste and said the ointment ought to have been sold and the money given to the poor. Jesus said she had done a good work by preparing him for his burial.
Everyone dips a piece of bread in oil and eats it.
Thursday: Haroset, Matzoh, Bread, Juices, and Foot Washing
- Jesus ate the Passover in Jerusalem. At that ceremonial meal, Jesus and his people ate special foods that symbolized the deliverance of the Hebrews out of bondage in Egypt. One food eaten at a Seder is haroset with bitter herbs and unleavened bread. The haroset symbolized the bricks and mortar that the Hebrews made as slaves in Egypt. The bitter herbs and unleavened bread were two of the foods the Lord told his people to eat on the night that the destroying angel slew all the firstborn in Egypt.
Everyone eats haroset with horseradish and unleavened matzoh.
- During the Passover, Jesus blessed and broke bread and told the disciples to eat it in remembrance of his body.
Everyone eats a piece of bread.
- Then he blessed wine and gave it to his disciples to drink in remembrance of his blood “which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matt. 26:28)
Everyone drinks grape juice.
- After dinner, Jesus took a basin and a towel and washed all of the apostles’ feet. He taught that he had also cleansed them all from sin, except Judas Iscariot who was planning to betray him. Jesus told the apostles that they should serve others as he served them. Jesus said, “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” (John 13:14-15)
Everyone washes each other’s feet.
- Jesus went to Gethsemane to pray. He was very sorrowful and fell on the ground. He prayed, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine be done.” (Luke 22:4) Jesus took upon himself the punishment for all the sins of mankind. Jesus’s agony was so great that “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Luke 22:44)
Everyone drinks the bitter cup of cranberry juice.
Friday Morning: Chicken and Salt Water, Hand Washing
- Jesus had been betrayed by Judas Iscariot and taken prisoner by the chief priests. When Peter saw Jesus being beaten and spit upon by the priests, he was so afraid of what might happen to him that he pretended not to know Jesus three times. The previous night, Jesus had warned Peter that Peter would betray him three times before the cock crew on Friday morning. When the cock crowed, Peter realized what he had done, “And he went out, and wept bitterly.” (Matt. 26:75)
Everyone dips a piece of chicken in salt water and eats it.
- The priests turned Jesus over to Pontius Pilate. Pilate questioned Jesus and found him innocent. He was going to release Jesus, but the Jewish people asked for another man to be released instead and for Jesus to be crucified. Pilate didn’t want to take responsibility for killing Jesus so “he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it… And he delivered [Jesus] to be crucified.” (Matt. 27:24, 26)
Everyone washes their hands.
Friday Afternoon and Evening: Vinegar, A Piece of Cloth
- The guards whipped Jesus, put a crown of thorns on his head and mocked him. They took him to Golgotha and crucified him between two thieves. Darkness came over the land for three hours. Then Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 13:24) One of the guards dipped a sponge in vinegar and gave it to Jesus to drink. “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.” (John 19:30)
Everyone dips a piece of bread in vinegar and eats it.
- When Jesus died the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.
Everyone tears a piece of cloth in half from the top to the bottom.
- Jesus had been taken down from the cross and buried in Joseph of Arimathaea’s tomb. All of Saturday, Jesus’s body lay in the tomb.
Everyone keeps silence for one minute.
Sunday Morning: Sweet Spices and Risen Bread
- On Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene and two other women went to the tomb where Jesus had been buried. They “had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.” (Mark 16:1) Angels at Jesus’s tomb said to the women, “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen.” (Luke 24:5-6)
Everyone eats a piece of risen bread with sweet spices.
A Successful Easter Tradition At Last!
Putting together a Seder is a bit of extra work for Easter but so worth the effort. We say that we are keeping up the tradition each year to teach our children about the last week of Christ’s life, but actually, all of the adults around the table benefit from the readings just as much–and everyone loves washing each other’s feet, tearing up cloth and throwing coins over their shoulders! The best part, however, is that with the Seder as the centerpiece of our Easter Sunday, our holiday is not just about colored eggs and chocolate, but about remembering Jesus together as a family.
QUESTION: What Easter traditions has your family tried? Which have been successful and which have worked less well?
CHALLENGE: Host your own Easter Seder, and tell us how it goes!
If you want to host your own Easter Seder, here are the items needed for each place setting:
A palm leaf (buy in stores around Palm Sunday, or we use palm leaf napkins)
Small cracker with fig jam
Pennies or chocolate coins
Three small pieces of (pita) bread
Dish of olive oil (for table to share)
Matzoh cracker with haroset and horseradish
Tiny cup of grape juice
Two wet wipes (or two towels with bowls of water for the feet and hand washing)
Tiny cup of cranberry juice
Piece of chicken nugget
Dish of salt water (for table to share)
Dish of vinegar or balsamic vinegar (for the table to share)
Piece of cloth with a small cut started at the top
Piece of cinnamon roll or other risen bread with sweet spices
Photos courtesy of Heather Craw.
Originally published on March 17, 2013.
I had a professor in college who made a Seder for an event important to the LDS faith. He taught about how different religions are lived in the home. Following his example, I’ve hosted a Seder and wanted to do something similar for Easter. This is perfect! Thank you!
Wow, I love that idea! Thank you for sharing!
We have always done a “Jerusalem” dinner, but I love what you have put together. I am so excited to try a Seder this year! Thank you for sharing!
[email protected] says
Thanks for this! It is exactly what I’ve wanted and you’ve done all the work. Looking forward to this very much.
Thanks for doing all of the work we will be using your ideas. I’m really excited to teach my kids more about Easter
Kristal Melbye says
I love this! Thank you so much!
Kristal Melbye says
I was preparing to use this for my family and I noticed that the first verse you have quoted (the one for Sunday) is actually Matthew 21:9, not Matthew 20:9, just in case people want to find it in the Bible. Thank you again for sharing this amazing activity!
Kristal Melbye says
Also, on Thursday, Luke 22:4 is really Luke 22:42.
Kristal Melbye says
On Friday, where is says Mark 13:24, it’s really Mark 15:34.
We do something similar, but not quite so thorough. 🙂 For our Easter dinner, we eat symbolic foods: olives and olive oil, grape juice, unleavened bread, and fish and honeycomb. We read and discuss the scriptures related to each one. The fish and honeycomb are a highlight, as we talk about the Savior eating them after he was resurrected. It’s become an important tradition in our family, and has provided valuable opportunities to testify of Christ and remember Him together.