How should you celebrate the day after Easter?

With a good laugh, of course. Better yet, with a party, a really fun party. Far from being a strange, new idea, this is actually a long-standing tradition rooted in good Christian theology.

It began hundreds of years ago. A monk, whose name has been lost in history, was pondering the meaning of the events of holy week, with its solemn observances of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the astonishing, earth-shaking events of Easter. "What a surprise ending," he thought. Then suddenly, like a bolt of lightning, he had a new insight. His hearty laugh startled his fellow monks, breaking the silence of their contemplation.

"Don't you see," he cried, "It was a joke! A great joke! The best joke in all history! On Good Friday, when Jesus was crucified, the devil thought he had won. But God had the last laugh on Easter when he raised Jesus from the dead."

The monks called it "the Easter laugh." The idea spread rapidly, and the day after Easter became known as a "Day of Joy and Laughter" in Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant countries. In homes and churches, it became common to celebrate God's great joke on the devil with joke-telling sessions. It became the custom even in monasteries. Especially in monasteries.

Recently, the Fellowship of Merry Christians, the publishers of "The Joyful Newsletter," began to urge churches and prayer groups to revive this very old custom and hold Easter Monday parties or to have Holy Humor Sundays the week following Easter. Joy, joy, joy!

In this spirit, here are ideas you could use for your Easter Monday party.

Since this is a fun event, don't take the party food too seriously. Instead, serve Easter eggs, marshmallow chicks, jellybeans, and other Easter candies. If you wait until after Easter, you can find these at half price, and have fun talking about the bargains you found. If you think your reputation as a host or hostess will suffer too much without more legitimate party food, you can also add a decorated cake in the shape of an egg or with other decorations.

1. Begin by reading or telling the origin of the Easter laugh and the Day of Joy and Laughter, using the material in the first part of this article.

2. You might ask, "Do you think Jesus laughed?" Print the article "Did Jesus Laugh" found on the Inspiration channel of Beliefnet.com and use material from this article to guide the discussion.

3. Ask the group to share their favorite jokes. Encourage hearty laughter. Be sure to have one or two you can tell to prime the pump.

4. Ask, "Can you remember anything funny that happened in your church? In Sunday school? At church camp? At your wedding?"

5. Ask, "Can you remember a hilarious event that happened to you or someone you know?"

6. God is still at work. God works in situations that seem utterly hopeless and bleak before he brings surprise endings and has the last laugh. Can you share an incident from your life with the group? Often when sharing such experiences, there may be not only tears but also deep, genuine laughter, a kind of holy hilarity.

Dismiss the group with this closing thought: "Go out with joy. May the joy of the Lord be your strength."

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