I didn’t grow up as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In fact, I didn’t even grow up in the United States. I grew up in a little town in northwestern Germany.

I was six months old when I was baptized into the Catholic Church, eight when I had my communion and sixteen when I was confirmed.

I grew up with all the traditions and quirks of the Catholicism, mass in a cathedral, lots of kneeling and standing and communion with bread and wine.

After my communion, I became an altar girl. Essentially, I was a little helper for the priest, carried the big candles and brought out the bread and water. I wore a red and white outfit and had a job. Little 8-year-old me felt like the coolest person in the entire church.

Victoria as a new Altar Girl after her Communion

Victoria as a new Altar Girl after her Communion Photo credit: Victoria Skalec

While many people connect Easter with a plushy bunny, chocolate and colored eggs, members of the Catholic Church celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ differently. Since it’s the most important celebration in the Catholic Church, it’s celebrated extensively.

I remember my mum always saying, “Easter is the most important thing all year. It’s even more important than Christmas. Because Christ was resurrected, we have the hope that our souls will be resurrected, too.”

Growing up, I remember that on Easter priests wore golden robes and sacrament hour was twice as long. It was filled with special speeches, frankincense and our choir, who only sang on special occasions, singing songs of praise.

Because the alter girls and boys would have to stand a lot on Easter Sunday, my mum let me drink Coke before the service since it had a lot of sugar. It would help prevent us from fainting because we stood for such a long time.

The Easter event is the result of weeks of preparations, all focused on what is most important on Easter: the Resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

In Germany, everyone celebrates two big events happen each year. The first one is Oktoberfest in autumn, and the second one is carnival at the end of February.

Carnival is huge. Children in all cities proudly wear costumes to school. My favorite costume was Pippi Longstocking, a character that impacted little me for years. She had red braids that stood to the sides instead of just hanging and wore crazy outfits. And, that wasn’t all. We also got enough candy to last a lifetime. As we became teenagers, we would go to parties.

The end of Carnival marks the beginning of the Easter.

Easter starts on Ash Wednesday. The tradition, dating back centuries, involves getting a black ash cross drawn on your forehead by a priest to symbolize conversion, repentance and mortality.

As a child, I thought it was the worst tradition because it was so hard to wash it off again, but as I grew up, it became a meaningful Easter tradition.

Ash Wednesday also starts a 40-day period of fasting (technically 46 days, but Sundays don’t count). It’s a time when Catholics remember when Jesus Christ went into the desert and fasted for 40 days, being tempted by Satan. It’s a time of reflection, abstinence and preparation.

I always attempted to fast from eating candy as a child and from procrastinating homework as a teenager. I never made it till the end, though. The furthest I got was 10 days.

The week before Easter is the peak of anticipation for me, especially leading up to the Resurrection. Palm Sunday, holds a special place in my heart and is my favorite part of the Catholic traditions.

The town I lived was so small that everyone knew each other. For Palm Sunday, my community would host these kinds of processions and plays to reenact the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem. All the kids had a role to play. One was Mary, one was Joseph and others were the Apostles.

Everyone wore the best costumes their parents could put together, and we had rehearsals to make sure everyone knew what to do. We even made props for the play. I remember standing proudly with a fake branch of a palm tree and yelling “Hosanna!” as a child while another child, dressed like Jesus with a fake beard and a white robe, rode past us on a real donkey.

Maundy Thursday is Christ’s last supper with his Apostles. He broke the bread and shared it with his disciples.

My grandma always had a special bread for communion shipped to our house for Easter. It was bigger than the other loaves that the priest had that came from a local shop in Poland.

I was so excited to partake of the sacrament for the first time when I was eight. It felt like Jesus sat right next to me and shared his food with me. I remember reflecting on how Jesus also washed all of his apostle’s feet as a sign of love.

The Garden of Gethsemane was the last thing Christ did for us before He hung from the cross. He knew what would happen to him, and I often wondered why we would do something like that. Why would He sacrifice Himself to put our burdens upon Himself and follow His Father’s commandments when He could have taken the easier route?

“Loving everyone is what Christ did,” was my mum’s answer.

Especially since I converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I feel like sometimes I used to focus on the wrong thing. His death wasn’t the biggest point, the Resurrection was.

As a child, I never understood the importance of the Resurrection. So what? He died and then He was alive again. It took years for me to realize how meaningful that event was.

He came for us. He came to give us hope, a chance to become better. No matter if you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Catholic Church or any others, we are all united in Christ. We are all trying to be like Him. By remembering what He did for us, we can learn how to be better disciples of His and strive to be like Him.