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I grew up in a junior varsity liturgical family. I spent enough time around high church people to know the date of Orthodox Christmas (special desserts round two!), and I think we even had our own household version of those green and purple wheels demarcating the church year. Advent, yes. Lent – of course. Easter was always the culmination. And because it was the culmination, it was also kind of – the end.

But then, for a pair of years, I attended an Anglican church in Boston that really went hard for Easter, from the Saturday night vigil (as Katelyn Beaty’s friend called it: Easter, the Musical) to a series of mid-afternoon meals that marked out the new-to-me season of Eastertide.

Every Saturday those two springs, we’d schlep ourselves and some limp salad to some distant part of metro Boston and cram into a fellow churchgoer’s New England-sized home with a bunch of people we barely knew and eat some of the best food I’ve had in my entire life.

I mean no disrespect to the hearty food of my potato-loving Midwestern forebears when I say: this was not a church basement potluck. This was a hobbyist pastry chef’s tomato tart experiment plus a vacationing pediatrician’s signature hummingbird cake plus one of our many resident professor’s favorite focaccia recipe

It was very bougie. 

And I desperately wanted to honor those same Midwestern forebears by bringing an incredibly intricate and exotic foodstuff specifically designed to elicit compliments, which I could then modestly dismiss. But my spouse and I were, at the time, both in graduate school and had a combined disposable income of $6, so we were not exactly playing at an elite level in the “bring a dish to share” game. We did not have the gear or the know-how or the grocery budget. So instead we showed up with our ugly Target serving dishes and our unimpressive food and ate at the nicer homes of the better cooks of the real adults in our fancy church, every week of Eastertide.

We moved back to Michigan ages ago now, and we mostly go to humbler and more familiar potlucks these days. Our church homes here don’t do Easter Vigils or Easter Feasts. Every year, though, I think about all that amazing food. And I think about how unwillingly I enjoyed it, because I was very busy wanting to prove that I can pull my own weight. I don’t need anything from you. You’re not better than me

It reminds me that celebration is a skill I need to practice and hone, and one for many of us feels much more vulnerable than all the lamenting and fasting and giving up stuff that comes before it. 

Eastertide invites a reckoning with the chips on my shoulder, the inherited defensiveness and fierce individualism and discomfort with receiving hospitality, my desire to seek refuge in cynicism. The part of me that views every celebration as somehow naive. The part of me that would rather die than show up empty-handed, even to an Easter Feast. So, this Eastertide, I’m asking the question: what do we need in order to feast? 

And maybe the better question: what do we think we need, and how wrong are we about that?

Header photo by Gor Davtyan on Unsplash

Katie Van Zanen

Katie Van Zanen is a doctoral candidate in the Joint Program in English & Education at the University of Michigan, where she studies the rhetorical and ethical decision-making of raised evangelical social media writers. She has been a writer for the post calvin since 2014.


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