Monday, March 21, 2016

Easter Ideas for Christian Families

In my years as a mom and member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints trying to create family traditions around my favorite two holidays Christmas and Easter, I've noticed something: a Christ-centered Easter seems so much harder to celebrate than a Christ-centered Christmas.

In December there are nativity sets displayed in public and religious carols (at no other time will you hear the Lord's name so often on FM radio — and not in vain, either!) But then there's Easter.

My kids enjoy bunnies, baskets, and eggs and we do them because they're fun! But I admit it's harder to tie those activities in to the real meaning of Easter. Do you sometimes struggle with ways to help your kids connect the dots between jellybeans and Jesus?

Christian parents often struggle to teach their kids about the real meaning of Easter. These family activities, traditions, and Christ-centered ideas will help you and your children celebrate Jesus and the resurrection all season long! #easter #christian

Over the years, our family has worked out a lot of Easter traditions that work for us. Feel free to look through the list and try a few this year that might help out your family.

And don't hyperventilate, we don't do them all every year. Rotate through and try a few each year depending on the needs and interest levels of your kids, and see which ones help point both you and your kids toward the real meaning of Easter.

Scriptures for Holy Week

Starting the Sunday before Easter, take five minutes per day to retrace the last 7 days of Christ's life using the scriptures! It doesn't take long to build your own devotional, but if you need help getting started you can find good age-appropriate list of scriptures and their explanations here.

Christian Picture Books

A powerful way to teach is by simply leaving out picture books teaching the real Easter message. Check them out from the library or, if you must, buy them! A good list to start with is this one from  this one from Heidi at A Lively Hope. Even if you aren't available to read with them all the time, they will start learn from looking at the pictures.

Easter Saturday/Easter Sunday

In our family, Easter Saturday is for Easter egg hunts and baskets just for fun, and the next day we celebrate Easter Sunday "for real" by going to church and doing more Christ-centered activities at home for the rest of the day.

Resurrection Egg Hunt

It's an egg hunt with a twist! We fill up plastic eggs with little stickers and candies  except for one. We make a big deal about finding the "resurrection egg," symbolizing Jesus empty tomb. If you're so inclined, you could also bake these Easter rolls, which are a powerful visual representation of the empty tomb.

Movies about the Real Meaning of Easter

Obviously you will have to use your parental judgment, because depictions of the actual events of Good Friday can be pretty horrific to watch, even for adults. For older children, though, I recommend this video.

Christian parents often struggle to teach their kids about the real meaning of Easter. These family activities, traditions, and Christ-centered ideas will help you and your children celebrate Jesus and the resurrection all season long! #easter #christian

Egg Carton Easter Story

Using numbered plastic eggs 1-12 (click here for instructions and what to put in each egg,) tell the Easter story to your kids in a new way. You can even store them in a grocery store egg carton to use year after year. Our daughter actually just made this at a church activity and was excited to bring it home to show to the family.

Display Meaningful Easter Decor

Children are naturally visual learners, and Easter-themed art will lead to many teaching moments about Jesus Christ. My friend Jeanne took a photo on a trip to Jerusalem of the tomb popularly believed to be Christ's tomb, and displays it (enlarged and framed) on her mantel every year. The kids could help you make a door wreath saying "He Is Risen!" or a decorative sign with an Easter scripture.

Easter Dinner Rolls

One of my kids' favorite things to do is help me make these "resurrection rolls" for Easter dinner. You roll up a marshmallow inside the dough, which melts in the oven and out comes a roll that is empty in the middle - just like Christ's tomb on Easter morning. You can read the recipe and an age-appropriate story about what they represent here.

I'm not sure how or why the true meaning of Christmas was preserved better than Easter, because without Easter there would be no Christmas to celebrate in the first place! But you can still do it within the walls of your own home, and with the right focus it can become the highlight of your kids' year.

Chime in with your best suggestions below, and happy Easter to your family!

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PurpleSlob said...

I love this whole list, Jenny! I had already decided not to do an Easter basket for my grand, because I want her to know the real meaning of Easter. So I bought her a Bible. Yes, it's the Berenstain Bears version, but it contains teh important points of the Bible!

Unknown said...

As a Humanist I like Easter as a celebration of finally reaching the vernal equinox. I love all the outdoors Easter egg hunts at historic houses and other lovely venues. My son's school will have a church service next Wednesday though with readings from the Easter story. I can see how it is definitely trickier for religious people to focus their kids on that side of it though - a baby being born is a happy tale, a man being betrayed beaten and brutally killed is not so much!

Jenny Evans said...

I've never heard of the Berenstain Bears version! They're everywhere.

Jenny Evans said...

We try to focus more on the fact that Christ loved us enough to suffer for our sins, and of course that He came back to life again which means we all will, too! But that's probably why Christmas has retained a little more of its spiritual origins - there's none of the tragedy preceding the miracle in that holiday!

Jenny said...

I always loved having conference on Easter and kind of wish it could be on Easter all the time.
Sometimes the hard part of celebrating for us is getting together with extended family who have completely different views of Easter. My oldest is at the age where she picks others habits or behaviors up and notices when they do things we have asked her not to do. So she notices that her cousins do things a little different. Most of the time we do alright but when she's vocal about it, we risk offending people.

Moonofsilver said...

I agree, Easter is not for eggs or bunnies, but for God and his son Christ :)

Pam Anderson said...

In the US, Catholics refer to themselves as an Easter People, and having reflected, prayed and sacrificed during the 40 days of Lent preceding Easter we are very joyful to celebrate Easter. Catholics will greet each other by saying "He is Risen" with the proper response being "He is Risen, indeed." It would be fun if that was more commonly shared throughout the Easter season like a Happy Holidays in December. I've found certain activities like Stations of the Cross and foot washing on Maundy Thursday really help our kiddos focus on the sacredness of Holy Week and better prepare their hearts for the miracle of Easter Sunday

Jenny Evans said...

In writing this post, I actually ran across a quote from Pope John Paul II: "Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song." Beautiful! I love your suggestions, and I had no idea that "He is risen" was a Lenten greeting for Catholics in the US! Thanks for sharing.

Katy said...

My old Presbyterian church used to do the whole He is Risen, He is Risen indeed! bit. Now I attend a more contemporary church and I don't think we could say that to each other over the rock band. :)

My church is terrific at helping my kids find the true meaning of Easter. Love it.

AiringMyLaundry said...

We're not religious, but I know a lot of people are. We're mostly about the bunnies and eggs, but my kids do know about Jesus. My son doesn't really believe, but my daughter does.

jen said...

It's specifically the Easter greeting.

Rosie said...

We really like watching The Prince of Egypt during Holy Week (the week before Easter), because the Passover prefigures Jesus's sacrifice. Not a totally accurate depiction of the scriptural account, but really an excellent movie. Also The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is perfect for Easter because of the whole allegorical nature of it!

On the Saturday before Easter we keep things pretty quiet because that's the day Jesus was in the tomb - we get our food for Easter blessed, spend time together as a family, and pray. Then we technically have 8 days of Easter to celebrate hardcore (Easter egg hunts every day!) and the whole season of Easter is 50 days long! If you save your egg hunts for after Easter Sunday, you can take advantage of sales, too ;)

Lynne at The Sweet Midlife said...

My son't preschool class at church is singing "Jesus Loves Me" for Easter services, and when it gets to the "He who died" part, my 3 year old asks who died, and I try to explain it the best I can. I think you are right. It is harder to explain this than happy Christmas stuff. But it is all necessary, as we can.

Lyndsay said...

So glad you posted this today. My husband and I were just discussing this this morning. We were asking ourselves when Easter became so commercialized and how we had let it seep into our own lives. I'm a little ashamed that it happened here for us. :(
We are taking Easter back this year. We did the same this past Christmas.
We have been kicking around the idea of cancelling Santa and the Easter Bunny all together. We already told the older two and keep asking ourselves why we ate still even doing it.
I mean. We would still have Christmas and Easter...but we wouldn't be fully committed to the game.

Jenny Evans said...

Those are all really cool Easter traditions that you have. We love Prince of Egypt (but have had a little family devotional to separate the scriptural account from Disney's artistic license!)

Jenny Evans said...

It is pretty mind-boggling, even for adults. So yeah, explaining it to a 3-year-old is hard. It clicked once when I told my Sunday School class of 5- and 6-year-olds that it was like Jesus volunteered to go to time-out for us when we did something wrong, so I think I'll remember that to explain it to my own kids in the future!

Jenny Evans said...

We still do Santa and the Easter bunny but they're not a focus for us. If they started to take over they would probably get the boot in this house, too, though!

Rachel said...

My Mom has a set of those Easter story eggs and I told the story with my 4 and 5 year olds this week, and then a few days later had them re-tell the story to me with the same props. Of course, I couldn't even get through the egg carton without crying, so that was great. I come from a Methodist background and we also do the "He is Risen!" "He is Risen indeed!" greetings on Easter Sunday. There isn't much about Scriptural Easter which is "cute", and that seems appropriate to me because we're remembering an event that's more awe-inspiring and earth-shaking than 'cute.'

Queen Mom Jen said...

We just did the plastic eggs with the story of Easter this week! That actually was fun. The littles liked it so much we did it 2 nights in a row. It is always kind of a tricky balancing act making sure our kids really understand the meaning and purpose of this Holiday that seems to be more about bunnies and eggs these days.

jen said...

A good friend of mine is Coptic Orthodox (Christians from Egypt) and the whole "Jews built the pyramids" thing makes her SOOOOO stabby.

Jenny Evans said...

That's a great idea. Teaching something is the best way to remember it and let it sink in, so it's fantastic to have the kids teach you.

Let's Talk Mommy said...

I never thought about Christmas being more centered around Christ than Easter but commercially i supposed you are so right. Food for thought. Thanks for linking up to Share With me #sharewithme

Unknown said...

Perhaps it's 'simply' because Christmas is so commercialised and while Easter is to a degree, not so much. I love the idea of the Different easter egg hunt :) Fascinating post from your point of view, thanks.