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Photo courtesy of Taralyn Parker
Kyler Parker creates a roll by placing a marshmallow in the middle. After cooking, the marshmallow will disappear and leave an empty "tomb."

With a request from FamilySearch that asked people to share their own Easter traditions, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints responded and shared their personal experiences.

Kristina Manscill from the Westwood Ward, Helper Utah Stake, shared her tradition of an Easter egg hunt her family does every year featuring green eggs and a single golden egg. “The green eggs have money in them. ... (anything from coins to $20 bills) and are always well sought after,” she said. “Oftentimes my mom will hide most of these in high places so that those who are in high school or college find them. I remember feeling so blessed as a college student when I found multiple eggs with $20 bills in them.

“Among all the Easter eggs that my mom hides, she will hide one golden egg. Inside the egg is a picture of Jesus Christ. Whoever finds the golden egg gets something special and memorable, and then my mom will usually read something about the true meaning of Easter and the importance of the Resurrection.”

With her in-laws, Manscill also does an Easter egg hunt but this one features color-coded eggs. Each family member is assigned a color. This creates fewer problems with older children finding a majority of the eggs and instead allows them to help younger children find their eggs. “Besides just candy, my mother-in-law includes tokens of the Easter story (and a scripture) inside several of the eggs,” she said. “When all of the eggs have been found, we sit down and read about Christ’s Resurrection and show the symbols inside the eggs, such as a thorn or rock.”

A popular tradition at Easter is the baking of “Resurrection rolls” to tell the story of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection. Taralyn Parker from the River Trail Ward, Spanish Fork Utah River Stake, shared her personal experience with the baking of “Resurrection rolls.”

“Delicious rolls for Easter have been a family tradition since I was a child,” she said. “My grandmother would wake up at 4 a.m. to start baking for the family. ... I can still remember the inviting smell. A few years ago when I had three children under the age of 4, I discovered a disappearing marshmallow roll recipe in the Friend Magazine that I knew would be a fun and delicious way to continue the tradition of Easter rolls.

“Each step of the recipe is an opportunity to teach part of the Resurrection story. My children always get excited when they discover the crescent roll is empty and the marshmallow has disappeared. It’s a beautiful reminder that the tomb was empty and that Jesus Christ lives. My daughter has added singing songs about the Savior to our Easter tradition. Hearing her sweetly sing, ‘Now I am here in a beautiful place, Learning the teachings of Jesus,’ as we bake is the perfect addition to our tradition that began long ago with my grandmother’s rolls.”

Many of the commercial aspects at Easter require families to part with hard-earned money that might not be available. In the 2015 Easter spending survey conducted by the National Retail Federation, it states the average person in the U.S. celebrating Easter will spend $140.62, and total spending for Easter — which includes purchases of apparel, decorations, gifts, candy, food, flowers and more — is expected to reach $16.4 billion.

At the home of Stacy Julian of the Greenacres Ward, Spokane Valley Stake, Easter consists of a less expensive tradition that is budget-friendly and passed down from her mother. “When my mother was a young mom, with just one little girl (me), she dreamed of putting a fancy chocolate egg in my Easter basket,” she said. “When she was little, her father had worked extra shifts ... as Easter approached, so that he could stop by the candy counter at the J.C. Penney department store and buy chocolate eggs — the kind with rich truffle insides, personalized with your name and a pastel flower on top.

“Unfortunately, such a purchase was beyond (my mother’s) budget, so she turned her disappointment into resourcefulness and found a gingerbread cookie recipe. She designed her own bunny pattern cut from a brown grocery sack and invented ‘ginger bunnies’ ... As it turned out, I was delighted with my cookie, so mom passed on fancy chocolate eggs from then on and a tradition was born. The bunny cookies’ ears are usually filled with pink frosting and their tails are decorated with coconut flakes, marshmallows or sprinkles. Most important, each oversized cookie features the name of a child. ... This way, a basket that is hidden can easily be identified and either retrieved or passed over during the annual Easter hunt. The soft, spicy cookies continue to be a much-anticipated and beloved part of Easter morning, because as an extended family we continue to honor it — in three different states and for more than a dozen grandchildren. Ginger bunnies have even been prepared and baked ahead of time, so that they can be carefully packaged and sent to missionaries who are serving far from home. Every year, as I roll out my big ball of refrigerated dough and carefully cut around my grocery-sack pattern, I am reminded that it isn’t the big and expensive things we do, but rather the small and simple things that plant the seed of happy memories and create family connections across generations.

“And, so that these traditions are passed on, we write them down," Julian said. She cited Jacob’s reminder in the Book of Mormon that “... we can write a few words ... which will give our children, and also our brethren, a small degree of knowledge concerning us. ... Now in this thing we do rejoice ... hoping that our beloved brethren and our children will receive them with thankful hearts, and look upon them that they may learn with joy ... concerning their first parents” (Jacob 4:2-3).

What would the Easter holiday be like without the many traditions associated with food? Families often spend time around the table sharing food during the holiday season. It’s not uncommon that family recipes are passed down and enjoyed as well. Angie Lucas of the Bluffdale 12th Ward in the Bluffdale Utah Stake shared a story about her Grandma Mona’s mustard sauce and how much it means to her.

“It was surprisingly mild in both color and flavor, given Grandma’s lovable spicy personality. I can still picture her carrying it proudly to the Easter table in a gravy boat. My dad and his four sisters ... had to coerce each of the 22 grandchildren into our first taste of this thick, warm sauce that looked nothing like the French’s mustard we ate on our sandwiches. (At least one rookie in-law mistook the mustard for warm vanilla pudding and swallowed a heaping spoonful before realizing his mistake.) My dad and aunts grew up spooning Mona’s mustard over their Sunday ham. ... They also helped serve it in the small-town cafe Grandma and Grandpa owned for 30 years, but at banquets only, for either the Lion’s Club or ladies bridge nights or when church dignitaries would visit the tiny Mormon town. It was far too precious for the regular dining room.

“Grandma’s example taught me so much more than just a tasty way to serve ham at family dinners. I think of the impact of Mona herself, not to mention her mustard sauce, when I hear the parable in the book of Matthew, where our Savior likened the mustard seed to the kingdom of heaven. It ‘indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof’ (Matthew 13:32).

“Grandma Mona lived simply ... in a little white house on main street in Grace, Idaho, ... a town of fewer than 1,000 farmers, homemakers, teachers, welders and plant workers. She and my grandpa could never boast much in the way of money or worldly goods, but she considered herself wealthy in terms of her blooming family tree. ...

“Never was there a woman more vehemently proud of her grandchildren. To be related to her was to have a champion in your corner who loved you unconditionally, unabashedly and without reserve. She was a woman of fierce devotion to both faith and family, inviting all that she loved to ‘come and lodge in the branches’ of her generous heart.

“She spent her final years in a retirement home in a city 65 miles from home, where she had more visitors than she could count. She had been terrified to leave her tiny hometown and vowed she never, ever would, but she blossomed in her new life. She thrived. One of her final acts of faith was to be an instrument in the Lord’s hands in converting an 80-year-old fellow resident, Mary, to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“For me, Mona’s mustard sauce is a taste of childhood and of home. It’s a reminder of the far-reaching effects of faith. How the tiniest seed of hope, kindness and pure devotion can blossom and grow, touching lives in the most unexpected ways.”

Trying to instill in children (and adults, too) an Easter holiday with a focus on Christ can be challenging with all of the food, candy, baskets and Easter bunnies abounding. Allison Kimball from the Reading Ward, Centerville Utah North Stake, found out what her children thought about Easter and implemented a tradition to help them remember the Savior. “As we sat around the kitchen table many years ago, I asked, ‘Who can tell me what Easter is all about?’ Our young children enthusiastically replied, ‘bunnies,’ ‘baskets,’ ‘candy,’ ‘Easter dresses.’ Not one of our precious little people said, ‘The Savior.’ I knew from that point on, our Easter tradition would have to change. ...

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“I researched books and websites for the perfect Christ-centered traditions, only to come away feeling empty and overwhelmed. As I thought about our growing family and the desires of my heart, I felt the quiet promptings of the Spirit whisper to focus on Christ and keep things simple. It was my ‘Mary moment.’ See, I love Martha and am so well acquainted with her. ... I (love and live Martha’s) life, but the Lord is quietly trying to teach me to be more like Mary. So I put away all the grand plans and on Easter we pulled out the scriptures and focused on the Savior. As the years have come and gone with more children being added to our family, we have found added peace and blessings from our simple tradition. Our children share insights and growing testimonies of the Savior. Occasionally one of the children will suggest watching the video presentation about the crucifixion of Jesus. Tears will be shed, and a greater appreciation of all that he endured for each of us individually will fill our hearts. ...

“Occasionally I worry and let doubt and comparison creep into my heart as I see all the amazing things that other families do, but then I remember I’m trying to be more like Mary. ‘I love Jesus. He is my best friend,’ one of the younger children will say, and I know that our Easter Sabbaths are exactly as they should be: focused on the Savior.”

rmorgenegg@desnews.com