I'm sitting here in my office at the church following up on all of the last minute details before tomorrow's Palm Sunday worship service. I've always has a special place in my heart for Palm Sunday and the entirety of Holy Week, including Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and of course, Easter Sunday. Growing up in northern Minnesota, my family's activities during this time of year were always focused on church. My mother, who was the church's volunteer choir director, was busy preparing for the special music the choir would sing. Of course, she was always getting ready for the Easter Sunday dinner that we would have, usually with my grandmother Lempi, who lived in Deer River, Minnesota.
My grandmother was a stout Finnish woman who didn't take any nonsense from anyone, including her grandchildren. Her husband, whose first name "Ivy" is my middle name,passed away at a fairly young age (by today's standards) in 1965. I remember him as a very quiet man - my guess is that he didn't know what to do with ten kids running around his house in Deer River.
Anyway, my grandmother would make two dishes which I always looked forward to - one was a wild rice hotdish (we called it hotdish, not a casserole). Deer River was a center for wild rice production and my grandmother was a cook in the local school district and a restaurant for most of her working life. Made out of wild rice and some kind of meat, it was always good. I think I recall we had this dish at Easter, but it might have been Christmas as well.
The second dish was more about her ethnic upbringing. She made a Finnish dessert called "ilmapuuro", which translated is "air pudding" (at least that is what I've always believed). It was made out of some kind of juice (cranberry or fruit or grape juice), sugar, and farina or Cream of Wheat. As much as going to church during Holy Week was a tradition in those days, so was the wild rice hotdish and the famous ilmapuuro. I'd also have to give a shout out to my mom for the hot cross buns she always made.
My grandmother Lempi passed away a decade before I went into the ministry. I sometimes think I'd have liked to have heard her thoughts on my career choice. I know she wouldn't have minced any words. Her response would have been straightforward and true. That's just who she was.
Sometimes, meaningful holidays are made even more meaningful when injected with simple family traditions like these. I'd be willing to bet that you've got some traditions in your house that help you remember the holiday gatherings. We don't ever forget the reason for those gatherings - remembering the Good Friday sacrifice that Jesus made for each of us along with the hope and promise of everlasting life on Resurrection Sunday. We don't forget those precious gifts from God.
We treasure these gifts, along with the precious memories of days gone by. I hope this year, your Holy Week willed be filled with God's loving grace and memorable family moments.