Saturday, March 27, 2010

Easter Traditions

Christmas and Easter are two of my favourite times of year. Christmas gets lots of attention everywhere -- but I think Easter is even more worthy of celebration. So, over the years I've had my eyes and ears open for new and creative ideas to celebrate Easter, and to teach my children about its significance. I thought I would share some of the things we do in case an idea strikes a chord with you. I confess that few, if any, of the ideas are original, so I will try to give credit where credit is due.

Easter Basket
No -- don't get visions of pink and blue baskets with bunnies and chocolate eggs. (I'm not completely opposed to those -- except as EASTER decorations. They're more spring decorations to me. BTW -- how did bunnies and eggs ever get associated with each other in the first place?!?!?) Here's a picture of what I'm talking about:

The basket holds a collection of symbols associated with the biblical story of Easter. We've added to it almost every year as we've thought of new things that represent the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Here are the items we have in it this year:
Purple cloth - Because it's a royal colour, it represents Jesus being King of Kings (Revelation 17:14), but also the purple robe the soldiers put on him while they mocked him as the "King of the Jews" (Mark 15:17-18)
Grape vine - Jesus said, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5) Really, it's a symbol of our need for Christ.
Candle - represents Jesus being the true light (John 1:9)
Goblet - represents the cup that Jesus passed around at the last supper, explaining that the wine represented His blood, which was shed for us (Matthew 26:28)
Loaf of bread - a symbol of the bread at the last supper, which represents His body, broken for us (Matthew 26:26)
Stone - represents the stone that was sealed in front of the tomb where Jesus lay and was rolled away by the time the women arrived to anoint his body (Mark 16:4)
Tuft of white wool - represents Jesus being the spotless Lamb who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29)
Toy rooster - represents Peter denying Jesus three times before the cock crowed (Matthew 26:69-75)
Toy soldier - represents the Roman soldiers who mocked and beat Jesus (Matthew 27:27-31)
Dice - represent the casting of lots the soldiers did for Jesus's clothing (Matthew 27:35)
3 silver coins - represent the thirty pieces of silver Judas received -- and returned -- for betraying Jesus (Matthew 27:3)
Piece of rope - represents the binding and beating of Jesus (Matthew 27:2, 30)
Cross made from sticks - represents the cross that Simon from Cyrene was forced to carry to Golgotha and upon which Jesus was crucified (Mark 15:21-24)
Crown made from a rose bush stalk - represents the crown of thorns the soldiers made and put on Jesus to mock him as king (Matthew 27:29)
Large, iron nails - represents the nailing of Jesus to the cross (Acts 2:23) for our salvation
Stick with rag tied to the end - represents the wine mixed with gall that was offered to Jesus on the cross to numb his pain, which Jesus refused (Matthew 27:34)
Strip of linen - represents the linen Joseph of Arimathea wrapped Jesus's body in after taking him off the cross (Mark 15:46)
Jar of spices - represents the spices the women brought to anoint Jesus's body, and then discovered he had risen from the dead (Mark 16:1)
Angel - represents the angel that rolled away the stone from the tomb and told Mary and Mary that Jesus had risen (Matthew 28:2)

As we assemble the basket together, we discuss the meaning of each object, reminding ourselves of the events of Jesus's life and the significance of the Easter story. Can you think of any other appropriate items to include?

Egg Decorating
You may have noticed a few eggs in the picture. BC (before children), my dh and I enjoyed making pysanka (Ukranian Easter eggs) with beeswax and authentic egg dyes. We discovered a rich history of incorporating Christian imagery in the decorating of these symbols of emergent new life (not to mention a symbol of the triune God, with the three distinct parts making up one egg). We also created our own methods of decorating using acrylic paints and gold and silver foils. (Some of those have survived almost two decades and are visible in the photos.) So, I guess it makes sense that we make egg decorating a part of our annual Easter celebration -- be it with shrink-wrap sleeves, food colouring, tissue paper, or paint. I'm still looking for a new technique to try this year. Any suggestions?

Here's a slightly better picture of our decorated egg display, behind which is a resin replica of the Last Supper which we borrowed from my dh's parents a few years ago and have neglected to return :{ (That's just so wrong! We must give it back after this Easter!)

Resurrection Eggs:
We use an older version of this set, which is simply a dozen plastic eggs, each containing a symbol of the Easter story and a devotional reading for each symbol. We use this kit in conjunction with a book called Benjamin's Box. Little people especially enjoy opening the eggs and seeing what's inside, expecially since all the objects are in miniature. Symbols include a donkey, praying hands, and a cross.

Here is a link that explains how to make your own Resurrection Eggs.

A few years ago, I read a list of Easter ideas on a message board. One was to work on an Easter related puzzle throughout the season. Family members can work together or independently as time allows, and the end result is a frameable piece of art :) It's a challenge to find puzzles that relate to Easter, so we use ones that at least suggest a Christian theme. Sometimes the dog even gets involved -- in which case we have to find ways to camouflage the missing pieces!

Here are a couple we've done. Excuse the reflection of my hand and camera -- I haven't mastered the fine art of photographing pictures!

We wouldn't be true homeschoolers if books weren't a significant part of our Easter celebration. Our collection isn't as vast as our Christmas one is, but here's what's on the shelf right now (If you click on the picture, you'll probably be able to read the titles -- if that interests you):

One of our favourites is not shown above. It's called The Lamb, by John R. Cross (who, by the way, offers a free, on-line bible survey course which we just completed):

This book has an audio CD narration of the book, which gives a succinct, child-friendly version of the gospel, along with beautiful illustrations by Ian Mastin. We listen to it each year. A few years ago (inspired by friends who did it with Sunday school classes) we did lapbooks on The Lamb, so we take a trip down memory lane with those every year, too. Here's a glimpse inside one of ours, which has lots of mini-books to open and read, but if you want more info about lapbooks, check out this site.


Passsion Hymns
This could probably go in the books section, since we use Passion Hymns for a Kid's Heart by Bobbie Wogemuth and Joni Eareckson Tada to study some of the good theology in a few hymns that are sung around Easter time. Each hymn has a narrative to go along with it, so we read that, then sing along with the CD. Some years we do one per day; some years we spend longer on a single hymn -- it just depends on how quickly the season creeps up on me and how prepared I am for its arrival!

Easter Hunt
Not a big fan of the Easter bunny but fond of fun, we modified the common Easter Egg Hunt to suit life with a diabetic son who is tortured by the presence of copious amounts of chocolate in the house, and by parents who lack self-control when it comes to eating said chocolate (which means it rarely lasts long enough for him to enjoy). My dh came up with the idea of having the children work together to find homemade puzzle pieces that fit together to form verses and other messages that lead to the discovery of envelopes with a special surprise. Last year the "treat" was a fill-in-the-blank form giving the option to choose a special activity with a parent, knowing that x-amount of money was available for that occasion. It was a delight to see the children record their plans for a special date with one of their parents.

Empty Tombs
Another idea I found online was making "Empty Tomb" cookies while discussing the significance of the ingredients in relation to the Easter story. Here is a link to a recipe that needs to sit in the oven all night. We've done it with success -- but it's a drawn out process, and I'm not always good with those :P I tend to prefer this recipe, though we don't put anything on the outside of our rolls. I can't forget this activity because I'm usually reminded to purchase the ingredients ahead of time:)

Art Activity
You may have seen the wire cross in this post, which is the art activity we did last Easter. It's late, but I still haven't determined what we'll do this season. I'm thinking of these clay and bead crosses over at That Artist Woman, who inspires me with so many of her great art ideas for children and adults alike.

Anyway -- that gives you a pretty good glimpse of some of the ways we try to be creative in celebrating the Easter season at our house. I'm ALWAYS looking for new ideas, though, so if you can point me to any, please do!!!!!

I've linked this post to the Easter linky at Impress Your Kids. Check it out for more ideas!


  1. Paula, I love your blog!!!! Well done. Thank you for inspiring me to be more creative with the kids.
    I love your ideas and congrats with kiddo no. 4.
    Much blessing to you and Blaire.

  2. Thank you, Angeri:) I hope you'll "come visit" again! And of course, you're welcome to come visit for real, too! Greetings to your family :)

  3. Love it! The easter basket is amazing! I love seeing all the symbolism so clearly. I think I need to do something like this.

    Thanks so much for linking up w/Impress Your Kids!

  4. Amanda -- thanks for setting up the linky! I'm loving all the great ideas:) I'm glad you like the basket -- it's lots of fun to create, and can be added to year by year as you think of new symbols to incorporate.

  5. Hi!
    "how did bunnies and eggs ever get associated with each other in the first place?!?!?"
    Wow... three question marks and two exclamation marks. Must be important.

    Think back 1000 years. Easter is the celebration of Spring Equinox which happens 20th of March or thereabout. You slaughtered the animals for food at November, and hunted through the rest of the year - except for this time of the year, because the animals were bearing offspring, and you didn't hunt mothers or babies. So - no meat. Except for bunnies. Bunnies were good food, because they were fertile year around and produced a lot of offspring. Another thing you had was eggs. Hens were also fertile year around and produced a lot of offspring. Bunnies and chicks, fertility, spring, the new birth etc etc. Thus the association.
    Frankly, I don't see why you have aversions against bunnies. Eggs are just as dedicated to Goddess as bunnies and you don't seem to have any problems of incorporating those to your Easter traditions. The symbols are what you made of them, not the other way around. You are not worshiping Goddess just because you have a couple of easter bunnies in your home. If God doesn't mind you eating things that are "forbidden", why would God mind what you decorate your home with?

    Ideas for egg decoration - what about glue and yarn? Or glue and seeds and lentils and such? They can be really pretty. And symbolical.


Sincere responses . . .

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