For centuries, in Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant countries,
Easter Monday and “Bright Sunday” (the Sunday after Easter)
were observed by the faithful as “days of joy and laughter” with
parties and picnics to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection.
Parishioners and pastors played practical jokes on each
other, drenched each other with water, sang, and danced. It was a time
for clergy and people to tell jokes and to have fun.
The custom of Easter Monday and Bright Sunday celebrations
were rooted in the musings of early church theologians (like Augustine,
Gregory of Nyssa, and John Chrysostom) that God played a practical joke
on the devil by raising Jesus from the dead. Easter was “God’s
supreme joke played on death.” “ Risus paschalis - the Easter laugh,”
the early theologians called it.
In 1988, observing that the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection has been
sorely neglected by 20th-century Christianity, the Fellowship of Merry Christians
began encouraging member churches and prayer groups to resurrect the old Christian
custom of Easter Monday or “Bright Sunday” celebrations, as the
early Greek Christians called it.
At a time when Jesus’ resurrection has been subjected
to an onslaught of ridicule and disbelief, the Fellowship sought to shore
up belief through ongoing resurrection celebrations.