This year, the biggest feast of Christendom happened to fall on the date of our parents’ fortieth wedding anniversary. I find the coincidence fitting. The wedding of our parents forty years ago marked the beginning of the transmission of life and faith to us, their children.
Among the happy family memories we recall together with our parents are the Easter Triduum traditions that we grew up with, and still practice.
During the Triduum, or the days before it, we are encouraged to go to confession.
For Holy Thursday, we have a special dinner after which we do the customary seven visits to the Blessed Sacrament. Since Holy Week in the Philippines is during summer, we have a special cold drink upon arriving home after visiting the churches, like iced coconut juice or sago’t gulaman — a local cooler made of gelatine and tapioca in iced brown sugar water.
For Good Friday, we practice the prescribed fasting and abstinence. We attend the Good Friday services and do the Stations of the Cross. For our full meal, we have a seafood dish for dinner that is special, though not lavish.
On the evening of Holy Saturday, we attend Easter Vigil as a family, followed by special food at home and, on some years, Easter gifts from our parents.
On each of the days of the Triduum, we usually watch movies or documentaries that are conducive to reflection and prayer – usually Bible-based films like Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ or Franco Zeferelli’s Jesus of Nazareth, or films about the saints or the early Christians. It is always exciting deciding what movies to watch each year, as well as discovering new ones.
When we were younger, we used to join the Salubong, the Easter dawn procession re-enacting the encounter between the resurrected Christ and His mother. We used to attend this because our paternal grandparents were active in organizing it for their parish, and are custodians of the statue of the resurrected Christ. Ever since our family moved far from our grandparents’ house, we stopped attending. But for the older ones among us siblings, the past Salubongs are sources of fond memories we recall every Holy Week – like the year our grandfather led the crowd singing the Tagalog version of the Regina Coeli over the microphone, or the year the statues did not face each other when the separate processions arrived at the meeting place and the fireworks were lit too early.
On Easter Sunday, we have a special lunch. When we were still children, we had an annual Easter egg hunt in our paternal grandparents’ house, with prizes. Then, in the afternoon, we watch the pope’s Urbi et Orbi message and blessing.
I am very grateful to our parents for passing on these traditions to us. Without these traditions, the Easter Triduum would have been nothing more than either a long week-end in the middle of beach season, or four days of enforced boredom. Instead, we have learned to love the prayerful silence, and the family togetherness reminiscent of the solidarity within the universal Church as She commemorates the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ. We have learned to appreciate the liturgical calendar’s rhythm of feast days and fast days, and to discern in them symbols of the sorrows and joys that make up our history of salvation.
We look forward to more years of practicing these traditions every Holy Week, and we will continue practicing these traditions even after we all go off on our own.