Attic Gal Rachelle says:
I love Easter! As I mentioned in an earlier post, in some ways I like it better than Christmas. One reason I love it so, is that it is much less commercialized than Christmas, which seems to give us more time to stop and reflect on the true meaning of this holiday, and the glorious gifts that the Lord has blessed us with through his atonement, death, and resurrection.
In an attempt to help my children understand the significance of Easter, several years ago I began to plan an entire week of Easter activities, starting on Palm Sunday, and culminating on Easter Sunday, following the last week of Christ's life. Most of them are small and easy to do, but a few of them are a bit more involved and require some planning.
Here is a brief itinerary:
Palm Sunday: Read about Christ's triumphal re-entry into Jerusalem in the New Testament - discuss the symbolism of the palm fronds and the meaning of the word Hosanna. Then the children dress up in sheets and Bible costumes and act out the triumphal entry, waving palm fronds , and throwing them in the path of a child who is riding on the back of his dad or big brother "donkey". We live where there are lots of palm trees, so finding palm fronds is not an issue, but I also have some artificial ones I found at the dollar store. You could also have the children make them out of paper.
Sometimes we put out a poster board or piece of butcher paper on the dining table with some pens, so we can write notes of love to each other all week long.
Monday: We read about the account of the cleansing of the temple and how we might apply that to own lives as we try to cleanse out own temples of things we should not be thinking/doing. We clean up our home, and make sure it is ship shape for Easter week. More importantly, we discuss what we might do to cleanse our own home to let a spirit of love and harmony abound, make a plan to do it, then try hard for the rest of the week to keep our home a place of peace and sanctuary from the world.
Tuesday: We read several parables Christ taught during his last week, and discuss what parables are, and what several of them mean. We even dress up again, and pick one or two to act out. I also have several oil lamps that I made out of clay for an activity about the Parable of the Ten Virgins years ago. We pull those out and talk about the meaning of that wonderful parable. If our girl cousins are here, we act it out. (With only six sons, we just don't have the cast otherwise!)
Wednesday: Not much is recorded in the bible about this day in Christ's last week. We might pick another parable to discuss/act out, or we might talk about the woman who washed and anointed Jesus' feet, and the symbolism of that act. We might also do some other Easter activities, like dying eggs, etc.
Thursday: This is a very special day for our family, because it represents the feast of the passover and the Lord's Last Supper, as well as his suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane. We always have a special candle-lit meal outside where we eat food Christ might have eaten in his day. Before the meal, we have a tray consisting of some of the symbolic foods of the Seder ritual - bitter herbs, lamb shank bone, egg, parsley in salt water, matzoh, etc. We taste each item one at a time and discuss how each of these ritual foods is symbolic of Jesus Christ and his mission on Earth. Then we have our meal of lamb and barley, figs, grapes, lentil soup, flat bread, olives, goat cheese, and grape juice. We have a dessert of plain yogurt with dates and honey. This is a very special evening for our family. We have invited other families to join us before, but we are careful not to let it turn into a party. It is a reverent and solemn occasion, and the spirit is always strong. It is amazing what young minds can understand through symbolism. The children are usually pretty reverent as we discuss the last supper. They look forward to our dinner all week, and talk about it for a long time afterward.
Friday: We read the accounts of the trial on crucifixion of Jesus, and discuss the details of the events as they transpired. We point out that Christ allowed this to happen, and discussed why. We sing hymns together.
Saturday: This is the Jewish Sabbath, so we read a bit about their Sabbath observance. We read Easter stories and sing songs in anticipation for the glorious Easter morning to come.
Just before bed, we always make our Easter Story Cookies - the ingredients of the cookies each have a scripture from the Easter story associated with it. So we read the scripture together as we add each ingredient. They are a meringue type cookie, that you make and seal in the oven. They are ready on Easter morning. My kids absolutely LOVE this tradition, and they never let me forget it.
Easter Story Cookies
1 cup whole pecans
1 tsp vinegar
3 egg whites
pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
Preheat oven to 300F.
Place Pecans in zipper baggie and let the children beat them with a wooden spoon to break into small pieces. Explain that after Jesus was arrested, he was beaten by the Roman soldiers. Read John 19:1-3
Let each child smell the vinegar. Put 1 tsp. vinegar into the mixing bowl. Explain that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross he was given vinegar to drink. Read John 19:28-30.
Add eggs whites to vinegar. Eggs represent life. Explain that Jesus gave his life to give us life. Read John 10:10-11
Sprinkle a little salt into each child's hand. Let them taste it and brush the rest into the bowl. Explain that this represents the salty tears shed by Jesus' followers, and the bitterness of our own sin. Read Luke 23:27.
So far, the ingredients are not very appetizing. Add 1 cup sugar. Explain that the sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died because He loves us. He wants us to know and belong to Him. Read Psalms 34:8 and John 3:16.
Beat with a mixer on high speed for 12 to 15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed. Explain that the color white represents the purity in God's eyes of those whose sins have been cleansed by Jesus. Read Isiah 1:18 and John 3:1-3.
Fold in broken nuts. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a wax paper covered cookie sheet. Explain that each mound represents the rock tomb where Jesus' body was laid. Read Matt 27:57-60.
Put the cookie sheet in the oven, close the door, and turn the oven OFF.
Give each child a piece of tape to seal the oven door. Explain that Jesus' tomb was sealed. Read Matt 27:65-66
Go to bed! Explain that they may feel sad to leave the cookies in the oven overnight. Jesus' followers were in despair when the tomb was sealed. Read John 16:20 and 22.
On Easter morning, open the oven and give everyone a cookie. Notice the cracked surface and take a bite. The cookies are hollow! On the first Easter Jesus' followers were amazed to find the tomb open and empty. Read Matt. 28:1-9.
Easter Sunday: I like to have an early morning sunrise devotional (only with those kids who want to participate - we don't need any grumps.) But they are usually excited for the adventure of getting up while it is still dark, and going outside to see the sunrise. We sing Easter hymns and read the account of the empty tomb in each of the gospels. Then we go inside and check on out Easter Story cookies from the night before. Then we have our traditional breakfast casserole that we only eat on Easter.
We also play Handel's Messiah and Mormon Tabernacle Choir music all day, do the usual Easter baskets, and of course go to church, and have a traditional Easter dinner with family. We have egg hunts, usually one with each side of the family, but before we do, we do a special egg hunt with our Easter Story Eggs. These are plastic eggs each with an item inside that symbolizes a part of the Easter story. The kids find them eggs, then, using the key, we gather them together, open them one by one, and read the scripture that goes with each egg and discuss it. This is a simple thing to put together, and you can keep it and use it year after year. It is a great tool to re-teach your children the Easter story.
Easter Story Eggs
Gather 12 plastic eggs of different colors. They can be different that the colors I have, just change the key accordingly. In the lime green egg put a fan-folded piece of green paper that looks like a small palm frond, in the teal egg place a small vile of sample perfume that you can get at a cosmetics counter, in a light pink egg put a small paper or plastic cup like you might put catsup in, in a light blue egg place some crackers (I use Goldfish crackers since the fish is a symbol of Christ, and they are small and fit into an egg), in a dark blue egg place 3 dimes, in a dark yellow egg place a small piece of a thorny branch, in a dark pink egg place a pair of dice, in and orange egg place a small piece of sponge dipped in vinegar, in a red egg put a nail, in the light yellow egg put a stone, and leave the rainbow egg, or fanciest egg you can find, empty.
1. lime green egg - Matthew 21:8 (Palm Sunday)
2. teal egg - John 12:3 (Christ is anointed)
3. light pink egg - Matthew 26:27, 39, 42 (the cup)
4. light blue egg - Matthew 26:26 (tho body of Christ)
5. dark blue egg - Matthew 26:15 (30 pieces of silver)
6. dark yellow egg - Matthew 27:29 (crow of thorns)
7. dark pink egg - Matthew 27:35 (cast lots)
8. orange egg - Matthew 27:48 (vinegar to drink)
9. red egg - Mark 15:25-26 (nailed to cross)
10. purple egg - Matthew 27:59 ( wrapped Jesus' body)
11. light yellow egg - Matthew 27:60 (stone sealed in tomb)
12. rainbow egg - Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-20; Luke 24:1-49; John 20:1-31 (empty tomb)
It is a great week, and I am so excited to get started! We can always feel the spirit in our home during that special Easter week.
Hope you have a wonderful Easter week!
What special Easter traditions do you do with your family?