What is Holy Humor Sunday? In the early church, the Sunday after Easter was observed by the faithful as a day of joy and laughter with parties and shenanigans to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. The custom of Bright Sunday, as it was called, came from the idea of some early church theologians that God played a joke on the devil by raising Jesus from the dead.
Easter was God’s supreme joke played on death, hence the risus paschalis – “the Easter laugh.”
So on the Sunday after Easter, 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.
In the congregations I’ve served, Holy Humor Sunday was a much-anticipated event every year. Funny skits, costumes, silly hats, and all manner of frivolity festooned the worship service. [Read more about why it’s okay to laugh in church: Easter, April Fools, and God’s Laughter.] We also sang fun songs to celebrate the day.
Here are some ideas to spark a Holy Humor Sunday celebration in your own church:
- Invite people to wear silly clothes, socks, and hats! You can also order crazy hats, sunglasses, and other fun items from places like Oriental Trading and have the ushers give them out with bulletins at the beginning of the service.
- Bring in a juggler! One of the churches I served had a resident juggler, so I asked him to walk around juggling while people were coming into church, and during the offering. He was delightful!
- Find the humor in the biblical text! We often overlook some of the funnier aspects of the biblical narrative. Of course it’s ridiculous that God would speak through a donkey! (Number 22:21-39). What a sense of humor Jesus had to use the image of camel going through the eye of a needle! (Matthew 19:24, Mark 10:25, and Luke 18:25) And why not think of the breath of the Holy Spirit as filling our own joyous laughter? (Acts 2:38)
- Hand out kazoos! Try a hymn sing with one verse done with kazoos. Guaranteed to bring smiles and laughter!
- Involve the kids! Is the sermon about Jesus telling the the disciples to throw their nets on the other side of the boat to catch fish? (John 21:6) Have the kids throw packets of gummy fish to parishioners so that they, too, can “catch fish”! Or have them hand out balloons to everyone so that during the sermon about Jesus breathing on the disciples, people can breathe into their balloons and fill the sanctuary with bobbing orbs of color!(John 20:22)
What ideas do you have for celebrating God’s laughter in your Holy Humor Sunday service? Post them in the comments below!
Also check out:“In the beginning was the laugh” Simon Jenkins, Co-founder of “Ship of Fools,” London; St Paul’s Episcopal Church, Akron, Ohio; Sunday 22 February 2004. Website: http://simonjenkins.com/websites/page/ship_of_fools
”The Fellowship of Merry Christians – Holy Humor Web Page” http://www.joyfulnoiseletter.com/hhsunday.asp
Leah D. Schade is the Assistant Professor of Preaching and Worship at Lexington Theological Seminary (Kentucky) and author of the book Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit (Chalice Press, 2015). She is an ordained minister in the Lutheran Church (ELCA).