It never fails... at Christmas time one of the kids inevitably asks why we don't celebrate Easter in the same way, when Easter is "more important". Though I try to explain the equally important significance of our Creator God taking on human flesh, I'm thankful they understand that the point of Him becoming man was the cross...and the resurrection!
This same question has been on my own mind many times as well. So, I have tried to make Easter a time we really anticipate, with lots of time for reflection and celebration! I thought I would share some of the things that we have done over the years, including new ideas that we hope to incorporate.
A few weeks before Easter we make an Easter garden, planting the grass seed in enough time for it to grow by Easter (last year was actually our first time doing this and we didn't do it early enough and the grass didn't grow in time). It's a wonderful centerpiece on the table throughout the season, watching new life appear!
I was just introduced to a book called Amon's Adventure: A Family Story for Easter. It's a fictional book following the adventures of a Jewish boy in Jerusalem in the weeks leading up to Passover, making the real historical events come alive. It's meant to be read aloud as a family, with short devotionals included, to help make Easter a time of reflection and worship. We plan to start reading it right away, in hopes of finishing by Easter. What a great way to spend the weeks before Easter, with time to reflect and gain a greater understanding of the upcoming events.
Another way to spend the weeks before Easter preparing our hearts is to practice Lent. I still have much to learn about this, since I didn't grow up with this tradition, but here is a link that gives some ideas, including a Jesus Easter Tree. I hope to incorporate this next year. I think it's important to have tangible reminders....so that our eyes can remind our hearts.
Here are some of the things we do during the week of Easter. Some of these things will be new to us this year and most often we don't get to everything, but I hope it gives you some ideas that are helpful as you prepare to celebrate Christ's resurrection with your family.
1. Do a re-enactment! - Read the story from John 12:12-13 from the Bible. Make palm branches out of construction paper or find real branches with green leaves from the yard to use instead. Act out the story, getting the whole family involved. Then use the palm branches to decorate the dinner table.
2. Read an Easter book to give the whole picture of what we are celebrating this week (see the link at the end for a list of Easter books). It's a good idea to have a basket in a prominent area where you can keep all the Easter-related books and videos,
Watch the Gospel of John movie (this movie is wonderfully done, amazingly word-for-word from the Gospel of John) outside in the "garden" if the weather permits....otherwise inside.
Dye Easter eggs. Discuss how eggs represent new life! Jesus rose from the dead and gave us new life!
Celebrate the Passover. Here are a few ideas:
1. Have a real Passover (Seder) meal, sharing the significance of each part of the meal and how it points to Christ. This can be done with friends.
2. Make a lamb craft or paint your door post red -by painting paper red and covering the door frame of the house (or just use red construction paper). Read Exodus 12:1-42.
3. Wash each other's feet as Jesus washed the disciples feet, as an example for them to follow (read John 13:1-12, 34-35). Last year was our first year doing this and Steven ended up washing each of our feet, one by one, sharing with each of us why he was thankful for us and praying for us. It was very special.
After the kids are in bed, we get the big cross down from the attic (the kids made the cross themselves) and set it up in the family room with a black cloth draped on it, and a crown of thorns hung on the top (this is actually just a wreath made with sticks that I bought at a craft store). We also place a black cloth on the table as a tablecloth.
When the kids wake up and come into the family room they see the cross and the black tablecloth. It really helps to impress on them the reality of Christ's death on that day many years ago.
1. Read the story of Christ's death and talk about how He died so that we can be forgiven of our sins.
2. Nail our sins to the cross. We each write down our sins on a piece of paper (we help the little ones) and then nail them on the cross. We read Colossians 2:13-14, talking about how on the cross Christ canceled the debt that was set against us, nailing it to the cross.
Keep the black cloth on the cross and on the table and talk about how the disciples must have felt on that day knowing that Jesus was dead (we take the sins down off the cross). This is a day of waiting.
Make Easter story cookies in the evening. Put them in the oven and turn the oven off before you go to bed and tape the oven door closed. In the morning when they open the oven door and take a bite of their cookies, they will be empty on the inside! (I haven't tried this one yet...hopefully this year.)
After the kids go to bed, take the black cloth and crown of thorns off of the cross and drape it with a white cloth. Place a beautiful white tablecloth on the table with flowers and the Easter garden in the center - with the stone rolled away, in preparation for the resurrection breakfast! (The kids also like to make a little Jesus wrapped in linen cloth..usually toilet paper, and put it in the grave on Friday. On Easter morning the stone is rolled away and Jesus isn't there!)
When the kids wake up and come into the family room they will see the the cross draped with a white cloth and the table set beautifully with white...and of course they run to see if the grave is empty! This is also when they can run to the oven and take a bite out of their easter cookies.
1. Eat a resurrection breakfast! We have enjoyed making a special breakfast of eggs, sausage and pancakes. What makes this a unique resurrection breakfast is that we pretend the pancake is the tomb and cut an opening and then we use the patty sausage as the stone in front of the opening...and then roll it away! The tomb is empty! The eggs are just for protein :-)...and we like eggs!
2. Gather with the church to worship and celebrate with our brothers and sisters in Christ! He is risen! He is risen indeed!
3. Share the Good News with someone. We started this tradition at Christmas time a couple years ago. After church we take some kind of little gift (usually pumpkin bread), and deliver it to people who have to work that day. We go to a nearby hotel front desk, or the gas station worker (the thankless jobs), giving them our little gift and telling them that we wanted to share God's love with them since they have to work on this special day...sharing why this day is special (the gospel!).
4. Resurrection Treasure Hunt/ Easter Egg Hunt- We do our own version of this resurrection treasure hunt, using our homemade Resurrection Eggs (we don't use the specific one from this link...there are lots to choose from online). You can buy pre-made Resurrection Eggs at your local Christian bookstore as well. As the kids find each of the resurrection eggs, they open it and find a scripture and an object which goes along with the scripture that tells the story of Easter. We underline a word in the scripture that is a clue as to where they will find the next egg. We also include a hunt for chocolate eggs and other yummy treats. We just have fun!
Sounds like a busy week?? You can add, subtract, substitute...whatever! You may like to pick just 2-3 things to incorporate this year, or maybe try to do some of them over a 2 week period. It doesn't really matter, as long as we keep Christ at the center of our celebration.
I'd love to hear any ideas that you have, things that you have done with your family, or if you have been inspired to add something new to your traditions this year! So please write a comment below!
Happy Resurrection Day!!
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5
*Here is a link for some more ideas as well as a list of Easter books that you may want to look into (some of my ideas came from here).
Another book I highly recommend is called Treasuring God in Our Traditions by Noel Piper.