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Easter was a big deal our house, growing up.
We went to Montgomery Ward’s and picked out new Sunday outfits. We dyed and hid and hunted for eggs in the yard, after Sunday morning church services. We feasted with family and with friends from our faith community in the afternoon.
But, whether good or bad, neither the festivities nor the significance extended beyond a twenty-four hour period.
As I’ve gotten older, my traditions have changed: I went to a Lutheran university for college, and was surrounded by people who took seriously the season of Lent. I became increasingly involved in liturgical faith communities who observed the church calendar year-round. I began reading various authors whose Christian backgrounds have opened my eyes to a different side of faith altogether.
So, it makes me wonder: How can I engage and prepare my own children for Easter? How can I take those elements from my youth and those elements I’ve picked up along the way, and invite my sons into this season?
I’ve got some ideas.
1. Dye and crack eggs. Author and speaker Jerusalem Greer makes a practice of dying and cracking eggs on Holy Saturday (the day before Easter) every year. Not only does it bring her family together, but a holy significance also exists alongside the tradition: eggs symbolize new life, and just as in resurrection, Christ is the ultimate symbol of new life.
2. Practice call and response. I worked summers in college at a youth camp in the Santa Cruz Mountains; to this day, one of my favorite memories involves a simple call and response from Psalm 136. If it works with two hundred fourth graders, it can mostly certainly work with a couple of children around the dining room table. It’s simple: the leader reads the first half of each verse, and everyone else responds, every time with the words, “His love endures forever.” Try it!
3. Grow something. Sometimes we have to start with the most basic of examples when it comes to introducing the concept of new life – because newness is at the heart of Eastertide! Grab a handful of eggs, an empty egg carton, cotton wool, cress seeds and decorative supplies, and within a couple of days, you can have eggheads with cress hair!
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4. Visit a petting zoo. My boys can’t get enough of animals – be it a dog, a cat, a goat, or a lion at the zoo, they are drawn in by creation. Likewise, Jesus goes by a number of different names in the Bible, but he’s often most associated with lamb. What might it look like to then visit a petting zoo (that has lambs), with a simple, tangible example of “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of this world”?
5. Play a wordy lawn game. Scrabble, Bananagrams, Words with Friends: I can’t get enough of word games. With a preschooler in residence who’s learning his letters and words, I love the idea of an Outdoor Word Game – especially if there’s an Easter twist! Design a word game for your backyard, aiming for words like, “Easter,” “eggs,” and “Christ.” See if this strikes a chord of recognition in your burgeoning letter-learner!
6. Consider Mary. I’ve long admired how my Catholic brothers and sisters revere the mother of Jesus. No matter your tradition, grab a bag of sour candies and a Bible, and scroll to the end of this blog post for the seven sorrows of Mary. With your kids, think about how Mary must have felt when the body of her son was placed in the tomb (John 19:40-42). Simultaneously, see if each person in the family can get through the reading without making a sour (sorrowful) face, when they eat the sour candy.
7. Bury the Hallelujah. If there’s one thing my boys love, it’s DIRT. Therefore, when Jenna from Call Her Happy suggested digging around in the yard with my children, I was in. Prior to Easter, grab a couple of shovels and “Bury the Hallelujah.” Christians don’t proclaim hallelujah in the Lenten season, so symbolize this practice by writing “hallelujah” on pieces of paper, and burying them in the front yard.
8. Learn an Easter song. I kid you not, there’s not an hour that goes by in our house without singing. We learn, we celebrate, we mourn, we get silly and we pray by song, so why not learn an Easter song together? Sure, you can bust out the hymn, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today,” over and over again, but you can also bring music to their level with something like “Hope’s Song” from Veggie Tales.
I don’t know about you, but reading over this list again makes me not only excited to enter into Easter with my children, but also equipped to celebrate alongside them. So, what do you say? Let’s enter in!
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Cara Meredith is a writer and speaker from Seattle, Washington. A member of the Redbud Writers Guild, she is also an adjunct professor at Northwest University and co-host of the Shalom Book Club, a monthly book club podcast. Meanwhile, she spends most of her spare time trying to get her children to eat everything on their plate. You can connect with her on her blog, Facebook and Twitter.