Growing up, Easter was a big deal in our house. It wasn’t because of the baskets, candy, dyed eggs, or Easter egg hunts, though. It was simply because my parents made a big deal about what happened that first Easter morning long ago. Christ arose! And that fact alone was cause enough for us to celebrate.
We would anxiously await Easter morning – my sister’s and my new dresses hanging up in the front of our closet, new shoes at the ready by the door, Easter hat hanging by my bed. We’d dress while it was still dark outside, shivering in the spring chill that would invade our Vermont home. The house would be dark and quiet; normally my father was already at church before we awoke. Each of us would receive one chocolate bunny that would be sitting on top of the TV stand, waiting for our return from church that afternoon.
Once we were dressed in our new Easter best … and then bundled up into winter coats (it was Vermont in the spring after all), we’d head off to church. In the chilly, still morning, we’d huddle with a small crowd out behind our church, overlooking beautiful mountains, the sun barely peeping its head out – and we’d sing, “He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today!”
The (short) sunrise service would end and we’d hurry inside, throwing the blankets aside once we hit the warmth of the church building. The church ladies would hastily set out the Easter breakfast – the special “Jesus” Easter breads, cinnamon rolls, dyed hard-boiled eggs, sausages, maple syrup (again, it was Vermont!), and fruit. We children would have free reign of the church building, helping ourselves to as much Easter food as we could stomach, enjoying every minute we had together as friends.
Sunday School would be full of laughter and fun as we celebrated the resurrection of our Lord. And then we’d be off to “big church.” I was a trumpet player when I was younger and my favorite Easter involved hiding in the balcony above the congregation with my trumpet teacher. When the chorus began, “Up from the grave He arose!”, we jumped up and joined in with our trumpets! I’m pretty sure the older crowd thought the rapture was finally happening!
After a glorious morning celebrating the resurrection, we’d head home, exhausted and starving. Mom would have a beautiful Easter meal ready – one year in particular we enjoyed lamb! – and then we’d crash.
No baskets. No egg hunts. No Easter bunny pictures. Yet, perfectly satisfied.
Now, I have children of my own and my husband and I are racking our brains trying to figure out how to “be in the world, but not of it.” We want to celebrate this holiday that truly is the pinnacle of our faith and the very reason we have a faith at all. But, we also understand that our children are heavily influenced by the world and the culture of today. So, do you neglect everything the world has to offer and solely focus on Christ? Or do you embrace the world and, in the process, get distracted from the purpose of this weekend? How do you balance? Can you balance?
My husband comes from a background of no religion. His family thrives on Easter bunnies and Easter egg hunts and Easter baskets and Easter candy… So, we know they will call Sunday with the questions for my daughter of, “Did you meet the Easter bunny? What’d he bring you in your basket?” This is mixed with my side of the family who will look at us like we’re insane if we let them hunt eggs or receive a basket. Balance seems like a pipe dream right now.
We are far from perfect and we have a long ways to go before we “perfect” our Easter family traditions. But, in our attempts to make Jesus central, yet live successfully in this world, here are some strategies we have come up with. They will be tailored as time goes on, I’m sure. I know better, more creative ideas are out there, but you’re reading a post from someone so creatively-challenged that glue and scissors is the extent of my arts ‘n’ crafts supplies. But, for what it’s worth, here are our Easter activities:
- We begin talking about Easter weeks in advance. We don’t save the Easter story until the week of; we begin in advance with stories before bed from Jesus’ life and conversations throughout the day of what Jesus did for them.
- In the evenings before bed, I read from their children’s Bible the stories beginning at Palm Sunday and ending with the ascension. I try to do this daily during Holy Week, with an emphasis on a different part of the story each day.
- I have a few crafts we’re doing this year. We did one just now that involved making three crosses and putting them on a hill. Tomorrow, I’m going to do this one which is making a sunrise with food coloring and a coffee filter. I’d also like to try this one this weekend, if we have time – an egg that opens up to a cross.
- Last year, I made resurrection rolls with E for the first time. It’s so simple, yet such a vivid, tactile activity to help them get a glimpse of what happened over Easter. We’re going to do that after lunch this afternoon, this year with baby brother.
- We’re prioritizing church services – making it a lifestyle, not an extracurricular. Thursday evening was a worship/communion service at church and we found a sitter so both of us could go, but the children knew where we were going and we talked about it with them when we got home.
- Sunday morning is the sunrise service and even if the kids are still in pj’s when we go, we’re going! We’re making it a priority for the entire family. Yes, they will be exhausted, hungry, and grumpy by the time church is over around noon, but it’ll be worth it to instill in them the importance of this holiday.
- After naps on Sunday, we’re going to have an egg hunt, but just for a few specific eggs that will help tell the Easter story. This blog has a good plan for making this happen. After they find the eggs, we will gather them together and have them open the eggs and pull the item out so we can go through the Easter story with them. I might skip the last egg; that’ll depend on what my husband thinks we should do. I’m okay with the last egg being empty being the “big surprise” of Easter, but we’ll see what he thinks.
- Sunday evening is our family meal with my parents who live close by.
I firmly believe the extraneous things the world has added to Easter are completely unnecessary. What God did for us so many years ago is sufficient for a giant celebration, year-round! We have hope for the future, a reason for living, and a Savior Who loves us. What more could you ask for? Seriously, how does a giant, creepy bunny with colored hard-boiled eggs even begin to compare with eternal life and completely forgiveness? Let’s change the next generation’s expectations of Easter. They certainly don’t need a reason to accumulate more “stuff”. Let’s teach them the true meaning and get them excited about Jesus! For without Him, Easter wouldn’t exist anyway.