I think Easter is the best holiday for three reasons:
(1) It’s connected to so many important events in Christ’s life and offers great opportunities to really teach our children about Jesus;
(2) It doesn’t need to involve a lot of stress or mess or expectations or expenses; and
(3) There are so many fun, simple, beautiful things we can do with our families to really celebrate Easter.
To help you develop your own great Easter traditions, I thought I’d share details on what works for my family:
I came to love the idea of Lent when I was in college and my Catholic friends introduced me to the idea. Lent has now become a tradition in our family. A few weeks in advance of Easter (Lent is officially about 6 weeks long, from Ash Wednesday to Easter Eve, but we’re not that precise), we each decide on something that we’ll give up for Lent. The kids usually pick something pretty simple (like a specific favorite candy). I’ve given up sugar for several years but this year I gave up eating after 8pm (makes me feel so much better!). We talk about how giving something up is a great way to work on will-power and be more healthy but that most importantly, when we give up something for Lent, every time we’re tempted to do whatever we gave up for Lent, we have a chance to think about Christ’s sacrifice for us as we make our own little sacrifice. I like that.
A couple weeks before Easter, I set out some fresh spring flowers, pull out a pretty table cloth, set out a bowl of pretty dyed eggs and voila – the house is all decorated for Easter. I love how eggs and flowers remind us of new life – what Easter is all about.
Here are a couple super-simple ideas I found on Pinterest that I think I’ll try this year:
The kids and I are always collecting “signs of spring” – the first sprigs of green we find. This would be a lovely way to showcase what we find as we celebrate new life at Easter:
And I think I’ll print this out and put it in a frame in my front entryway this Easter (several combinations of colors available – just click on the image below.)
EASTER WEEK DAILY TRADITIONS:
We have special (but very simple) activities we do each day of the week leading up to Easter. Thanks to great ideas from books and friends and some trial and error, our Easter Week has evolved over the years into what I’ve laid out below.
Most of the ideas below take 5-10 minutes and require little or no supplies.
On Palm Sunday, we read Matthew 21: 1-11 together and look at this picture:
Then we we act it out (using weeds for palms and dad for a donkey…). The kids yell “Hosana!” and we talk about how wonderful it must have been for Jesus to see so many people embracing his message of love.
On Monday we read from the scriptures about Jesus cleansing the temple (Matthew 21:12-13). Sometimes we re-enact Jesus cleansing the temple (with a focus on how we can stand up for what is right and be firm and stern without being mean). Some years we’ve gone to visit a holy place like a temple or cathedral to feel the peace there and imagine how it must have felt to Jesus to see people showing so little reverence for the temple. We talk about how important it is to keep sacred things sacred and talk about what the word “sacred” means.
On Monday we’ve also talked about Jesus’s cursing of the unfruitful fig tree (Matthew 21:19-22) and how important it is that we use what we’ve been given to bless the lives of others while also talking about the importance of faith and how faith can bring miracles to pass.
On Tuesday we dye eggs (we always do the first one red by leaving it in the pink then the orange dye for a long time – I lived in Bulgaria for a while and that was the tradition there – the red represents death and the egg represents new life – great symbol of death and life coming together). We talk about how eggs represent new life and read about the new life Christ offered in the scriptures. Here are a couple favorite scriptures to read (and memorize together if you like) as a lead-up to the egg-dying:
John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”
John 10:10 – “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
We all have fun coming up with creative new ideas for decorating eggs. We’ve tried using Sharpie pens to make beautiful patterns. We’ve tried “tie-dying” eggs by wrapping them in tissue dipped in different colored dye. And when we’re done creating beautiful eggs, we shine them up by rubbing them with a little olive oil and put them in a nice bowl as a decoration.
When the kids were little, it used to be a crazy ordeal trying to dye eggs without any big fat permanent messes but it’s actually been very enjoyable the past few years!
There are so many fun ideas for dying eggs. Here are a few we might try and you can click on each for instructions (but super-simple works fine!)
Cool Nature-Print Eggs:
Natural Dyed Eggs:
On Wednesday we talk about Christ’s parables and miracles (many in Matthew 25 – the parables of the 10 Virgins, the talents, and the sheep and the goats). We have some good kids’ books about the parables and we also like to watch the video “Finding Faith in Christ” (beautifully depicts several of Christ’s miracles – click below to watch it – it’s about 10 minutes long).
We also watch several of these video clips showing scripture-based depictions of Christ’s miracles, sermons, parables, etc. Click on the image or the link below to see all available clips.
On Thursday we do a simple Passover-style supper with lentil stew and pita bread (you could get into a real Passover dinner – tons of great ideas on Pinterest – or keep it super simple with cheese and pita bread…) and talk about the Last Supper and the Garden of Gethsemane as we read about these events in the scriptures:
Last Supper – Matthew 26:17-35
Gethsemane – Matthew 26:36-46
Arrest and Trial – Matthew 26: 47-68
We also talk about how Christ suffered as he took the sins of the world upon him in the Garden of Gethsemane and discuss the Atonement a bit. Here’s a favorite depiction of what happened after the Last Supper that works well for us:
On Friday we talk about Christ’s death, sometimes read parts of Matthew 27, and look at this picture:
We’ve also found some videos that really help. Here are a couple that work well:
This 10-minute clip from a short film called “The Lamb of God” nicely depicts what happened after Christ was arrested at the Garden of Gethsemane leading up to and including the crucifixion. (Click below to watch.)
This 9-minute animated depiction is offered through the eyes of one of the criminals who was crucified next to Jesus. While it shows quite a bit of blood and agony and may not be appropriate for young children, it feels a bit less graphic when done with animation and I thought it worked well for my older children (ages 10 and up). Click below to preview and see if it would work well for your children.
We talk about why people call this day “Good Friday” – what Jesus did for us was so very very good although it was so very very sad.
These topics can be tricky with younger children – this is hard, heavy stuff. But I’ve found that my young kids (starting maybe around 4 years old) have been able to understand things and feel empathy and love way beyond their years as we’ve watched videos, read scriptures and talked about things.
Saturday (the day Jesus was resting in Heaven) is for the Easter Bunny and egg hunts and all that fun stuff. We usually have a neighborhood egg hunt on Saturday morning.
The kids and I make simple fliers and take them around to all the neighbors plus send out some emails. We ask that every child bring 10 plastic eggs filled with candy or stickers or other prizes. Usually someone does a few “money” eggs with quarters and one time even a dollar (that was a big hit!).
When everyone arrives for the hunt, the other moms and I keep the kids engaged in some games inside (“duck, duck, goose” becomes “egg, egg, bunny”) while the dads hide the eggs in a clearly defined area (usually 3-4 front yards in a row). Then we sent out the little kids first for eggs followed by the medium kids then the big kids.
At the end, we give a prize to the child who found the most eggs then we usually divide up all the eggs somewhat evenly and hang out with the neighbors eating candy for a while. We make deviled eggs for lunch and eat more candy. It’s a fun day.
On Easter morning, as soon as we wake up (while we’re still in our pj’s), we watch a video clip about the resurrection. I really like this one that puts together everything we’ve been talking about all week. It starts with Palm Sunday and goes through the Resurrection all in about 8 minutes.
Then the kids head into the living room where they find some new Easter clothes (just spring church clothes they need anyway – often just a new shirt or tie for the boys and Eliza usually gets a new dress) and their Easter Baskets waiting for them (see photo below for details – the baskets contain very simple gifts – a few candies, often a book and some other stuff they can use to keep themselves happily and meaningfully occupied at church on Sundays when what the speakers are saying is going over their heads).
I like doing new clothes for Easter because it helps make church extra special on Easter, symbolizes a new beginning, and hey, it’s fun to celebrate spring by dressing my kids up in cute coordinated outfits (and luckily, I always seem to find great sales).
After Easter baskets, we eat a special breakfast (eggs benedict is our tradition) and get ready for church (or if we have early church, we just have some cereal and come home after church for a special Easter brunch).
After church, we do a special Easter Egg hunt for plastic eggs filled with symbols of Christ’s last week on earth (a piece of bread for the Last Supper, a rock for the tomb, a little cross made of sticks, some olive leaves for the Garden of Gethsemane, some nails, some thorns…). Now that our kids are a bit older, it’s been great to have them read scriptures on a little slip of paper inside each egg. Click on the photo below for full instructions and printables from “The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking.”
Our traditions are still evolving – and probably always will be. I’m always adding in new ideas people share with me and I’ve taken out a lot of ideas that proved to be more trouble than they’re worth.
The main thing is that our children are really starting to understanding the real meaning of Easter. I’m so grateful for the chance I have, through simple activities like those outlined above, to bear my testimony of Jesus daily to my children during Easter Week.
I hope my kids will always think of Easter as a magical and meaningful holiday – a great combination of fun and thought and treats and tokens of the first Easter.
QUESTION: What are your favorite Easter traditions?
CHALLENGE: Add a new and meaningful Easter traditions this year. It can take about 5 minutes!