Like Christmas, Easter has lost much of its religious meaning in popular culture. Ask your average kid what the holiday is about and they will tell you all about the Easter Bunny, eggs hunts and baskets full of candy.
For practicing Christians, Easter Sunday and the Holy week that precedes it are the apex of our faith. Without the resurrection of Christ there is no Christianity. Easter is about being saved and the promise of a new life after this one that gives true meaning and purpose to our time on Earth. And that’s just too important to not celebrate.
So how can you bring the meaning of Easter back into your home, in a way that your kids can truly appreciate and remember? Here are a few ideas from my family:
1. Stations of the Cross
If you’re Catholic, you probably remember reciting the Stations of the Cross at church or school. Many other Christian denominations still carry on this beautiful tradition of meditating on the events of Good Friday that led to Jesus’s death and burial in the tomb. If your memory is a little fuzzy, you can go online to find station readings that are geared for kids. One year, many years back, I asked my kids to draw pictures of the 14 stations. The pictures were beautiful, and some were unintentionally comical.
I so loved them, I decided to laminate them. To this day, our family still uses these drawings when we pray the Stations of the Cross in our home during Lent. My kids really get a kick out of it when I pull out the old drawings every year. Inevitably, family prayer time becomes a bit of a laugh fest when they see their artistic attempts from years back. My husband Sean and I try to bring everyone back into focus... but there’s nothing wrong with a little laughter with our prayer.
2. Ditch the Easter Basket ...or supplement it with this easy craft idea!
On Good Friday or Holy Saturday, our children draw an image of Jesus on the Cross and cut it out. You can even make one out of clothes pins. Then, using small strips of white cloth (tissues will work), we wrap Jesus up, just as his disciples did when they took him off the cross. Then we place Jesus in a box with a lid (a shoe box will do) to symbolize the tomb. Finally, I send the kids out to find the perfect rock to put on top of the lid — again, to symbolize the rock that was rolled in front of Jesus’ tomb.
The children know that they are not to open the lid until Easter Sunday. We have a family altar in our living room, so we place our shoe box/tomb under the altar and we wait. On Easter morning, when they open the box, Jesus is gone and in His place are lots of treats and chocolates! I save the pictures of Jesus in their keepsake boxes because I know they will one day love to see how they saw and drew Jesus at different ages.
3. Bring back some old traditions
Take time on Holy Week to make hot cross buns with the kids. If you are too busy (or hate to bake!), make a tradition of taking the kids on a special trip to the bakery to buy them. Eating these sweet rolls with the symbol of the cross started in the Middle Ages and traditionally, they are only eaten on Good Friday. Be sure to recount the history of this delicious tradition, then enjoy them as a family!
It’s so fun for kids to dye eggs. But on Holy Thursday, we make a special batch of dyed eggs. Instead of pastel, the eggs we dye on Holy Thursday are dyed only red to symbolize the blood of Jesus. It’s a great way to start the conversation about Passover and the crucifixion and death of Christ.
Finally, keep Holy Week “holy” and special. Read books together about the meaning of Easter and watch religious movies. Find animated videos online and in your video store telling the Easter story of a selfless Savior, not a bunny!
My kids love old Hollywood movies and look forward to watching the Charlton Heston classic, “The Ten Commandments,” every year. The retro special effects and over-acting are fun to watch and the story is a great reminder of our Jewish roots in the Passover meal. We allow the older ones to watch “The Passion of the Christ” with us. This year, I took the kids to see “The Young Messiah,” another well-made religious movie that foreshadows the events of Good Friday. The discussions we have after watching these films never cease to amaze me. It’s important to remember that our faith is not passed on genetically. We are our kids’ primary teachers and it’s up to us to not only keep our Christian traditions alive, but to make our faith exciting and relevant to our children’s lives. I’ll be praying for you as you do your part to keep the “Christ” in Easter for your kids and family.
Rachel Campos-Duffy is the national spokesperson for The LIBRE Initiative, the author of "Stay Home, Stay Happy: 10 Secrets to Loving At-home Motherhood" and a TODAY Tastemaker.