Spring weather is finally peaking its head out and with that, comes preparing for the celebration of Easter. Christmas is the birth of Jesus, when God sent the Redeemer to mankind. But, Easter is the pinnacle of the Christian faith when Jesus died and rose again! Why then does it seem like we do so much at Christmas, but seem to drop the ball at Easter? After all, if the baby King born in a manger didn't die, and rise again, what kind of god are we following?
Easter should be the highlight, the pinnacle of the Christian church, and sadly often times, it is not. In theory and in discussion, yes. But in practice? Usually not. Christmas, the birth of Jesus, outshines Easter by far, but, what is Christmas without Easter?
Many times Christians associate Easter with dressy, uncomfortable outfits, an array of the pastel colors purple, pink, yellow, blue, and green, the "secular" celebrations of baskets and easter bunnies, all culminating with an extra special visit to church on Easter Sunday where the pastor tries to make the "same old story" about Jesus' death and resurrection somehow new and exciting. That is what used to come to mind when I thought of the Christian church and Easter. But, over the last many years, we've watched our family celebrations change and watched many Christians and churches begin to celebrate, to really celebrate, and it has been fantastic to see. Jesus is nothing close to being a "same old story."
I heard a writer say it like this, "It seems like Easter should be a military celebration, a Roman Triumph, a victory parade. Torches burning, bands blaring, pigs roasting on a spit. The God-Man has destroyed our last enemy, death, and has utterly triumphed over every foe. I don’t know quite what this should look like, but I do like what Robert Louis Wilken wrote in First Things:
If Christ is culture, let the sidewalks be lit with fire on Easter Eve, let traffic stop for a column of Christians waving palm branches on a spring morning, let streets be blocked off as the faithful gather for a Corpus Christi procession. Then will others know that there is another city in their midst, another commonwealth, one that has its face, like the face of angels, turned toward the face of God.
If we want our children to see, know, and understand Easter for what it is... a glorious, triumphant celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus, then we must change how we approach it. It's not just a fancy Sunday that happens once a year, with an after church Easter egg hunt with the grandparents. If we want to present our children with a God they long to follow, a God that captivates their hearts and minds, a God that they see and know as being as awe-inspiring as He truly is, then we can't just give them culture's idea of Easter.
So what does this mean? What does this even look like? Well, that's up to you! It doesn't mean you have to go all out, create all kinds of crafts, and activities. The way you cultivate an Easter celebration in your family will not look exactly like someone else's. It means choosing a few things that you want to draw your family's attention to and putting in the time and effort to get it done. Will it be perfect? Not even close. Will it turn out exactly how you planned for in your head? Definitely not. But, if we aim for nothing, we hit nothing.
Maybe it's intentionally reading through the events of Easter with your kids during Holy Week, while another family sets up an Easter tree, does resurrection eggs, and crafts. Maybe you spend Maundy Thursday doing a family service project in your community while sharing the good news that Jesus is alive and active! Maybe it's taking a quiet, reflective hike with your family on Good Friday, talking and discussing with your kids what it would be like if Jesus never came and rose again?
So, here are some of the ways our family is prepping for our Easter celebration. Maybe you'll find an idea or two here. Or, even ask your kids what their thoughts are on how to celebrate!
1. Easter Advent- for our family. this is a tradition that is really important to us. As we journey towards Easter we are called to remember. Jesus instructs at the Last Supper to “do this in remembrance of me.” He is actually telling us to experience His presence, not read about it, but to actively walk through an experience in order that we may remember.
For us, walking through an experience to remember is our Easter advent. It is here, through Scripture, readings, and stories leading up to the death and resurrection of Jesus, where we call ourselves and our children to engage in the ache and the beauty as we are led down the road to Calvary.
In years past, we've kept our Advent to the week before Easter with the schedule and readings posted at the end of this post. Last year was our first year doing 25 of the 40 days of Lent before Easter. We found at the ages of our kids, the full 40 days was a little too long to hold the meaning and intensity we were looking for. We use the cradle to the cross wreath, lighting a candle each night as we read and reflect.
2. Easter Baskets- while our family has personally not chosen to do anything regarding the Easter Bunny, we do participate in the cultural activity of the Easter basket. We do try to place some kind of meaning into what goes inside their baskets.
For example, maybe hone in on "old to new" from "death to life," and in each of your kids' baskets you can have some kind of craft/project representing going from old to new, from death to life, from broken to restored.
After all, this is what Easter really is about.
Examples: Put a container of broken crayons and a silicone mold in their Easter basket. Melt the crayons to make new crayons in the molds. A collection of old, mismatched costume jewelry in the Easter basket with a blank canvas. Take apart all the jewelry and hot glue into a new creation on the blank canvas.
3. CELEBRATE- How can you really celebrate? Make memories with your kids about the JOY and celebration of Jesus' victory over sin, death, and the evil one.
Here are a few ideas: Sidewalk chalk your street! Buy balloons, hang streamers, buy a confetti gun or a pinata! JESUS IS ALIVE!! Sometimes Christians get accused of being too somber, not showing real joy. I'd have to agree that sometimes their accusations are correct.
I purchase these confetti wands for our kids on Amazon and stick them in their Easter baskets. The confetti is biodegradable so no need to clean up (if used outside, haha). They had a blast in years prior with confetti poppers, but these are a lot easier for my little kids than the poppers that were hard to pull the string out of and that made loud noises. I also included a few of these confetti eggs (also biodegradable) for their Easter baskets. Think water balloon fight outside, but with confetti eggs! Or, how about an Easter pinata?
Side note: If you share the pictures of your confetti filled "Jesus is Alive" people will absolutely assume you are making ANOTHER baby reveal 😂😂😂
How are you preparing and celebrating this year?!?!
Easter Advent Reading Plans
Here's an Easter Advent that our family has worked through during Holy Week (Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday) every year. Please feel free to use it or adapt for your family.
Each day has a reading from a story Bible, an Easter egg to open with a trinket that goes along with the story, and a picture ornament that also goes along with the story. Both the trinket and picture will be hung on the Easter tree, much like a Christmas advent Jesse Tree that hangs ornaments from the Bible stories leading up to the birth of Jesus. You can right click the Easter pics below and "save image as" and then print. We hole punched the top and made ornaments. Our Easter tree is simply branches from outside stuck in a heavy vase.
The following items are used in the Easter Holy Week Advent that I've prepared, but they can easily be read using other sources by matching up the Biblical stories. We use multiple resources because some story Bibles don't include all the events of Holy Week, or one might explain an event better than another. You can always read the events straight from the Bible as well.
Resurrection Eggs- We adapted these to fit the Holy Week readings we chose. Use however you'd like.
The Jesus Storybook Bible
The Gospel Story Bible
The Ology by Marty Machoswki
The initial plan below is geared more towards the young child. The adaptations we use with our older kids is also listed.
Day 1- The Triumphant Entry
Day 2- Jesus Cleanses the Temple
Day 3- Jesus Washes the Apostles Feet
Day 4- The Last Supper
Day 5- The Garden of Gethsemane
Day 6- The Crucifixion of Jesus
Day 7- The Burial of Jesus and Darkness Covers the Land
Day 8- The Resurrection