I've noticed something about most Christian families -- we don't make a big enough deal about Easter! When I ask parents and kids about their favorite holiday traditions, I hear plenty about Christmas and Thanksgiving but very little about Easter. For many of us, Easter traditions consist simply of getting a bit more dressed up than normal for church and coming home to an Easter egg hunt in the backyard and a nice lunch.
It's interesting to me that we devote a whole season to Christmas, but often only a single morning to Easter. Nothing against Christmas, but here's the irony: Easter is the most important day of the church calendar. In fact, the original Easter Sunday was the most important day in the history of the world.
Several years ago Jodie and I decided to elevate the importance of Easter in our home. We want our daughters to grow up with meaningful and rich Easter traditions and memories that reinforce the enormous spiritual significance of this holiday. We want to build the anticipation so our kids come to love this time of year and get excited when we tell them, "Easter is coming!"
The rewarding thing is… it's working. We haven't figured it all out yet, but by adding a few meaningful traditions, our family has come to look forward to this season as one of their favorite times of year.
Our overall strategy has been to expand the one day celebration of Easter to a week-long journey through Holy Week with our kids. We've developed our traditions over the past several years by taking the best ideas from a growing number of resources that are available to help. (A quick Google search can get you started.)
Below is a summary of what we do in our home -- feel free to grab any of these ideas you like, or create your own traditions. (A quick word of caution: don't try to do everything the first year. Even if you add only one or two new traditions you can greatly enhance the family experience.)
My prayer is that Easter 2014 will be the most significant yet for your family.
Holy Week Family Traditions
(Ideas from the Sweet home)
Light a special "Jesus Candle" to symbolize the light of the world arriving in Jerusalem to redeem mankind. Place it in a prominent place in the house, and if possible, keep this flame lit until Friday evening (we use a battery operated candle). The candle will be extinguished on Friday night to symbolize His death and then relit on Sunday morning to celebrate the resurrection.
Monday and Tuesday
Have a short family Bible story time on these evenings focusing on the story of Jesus clearing the temple (Monday) and Jesus being anointed at Bethany (Tuesday). These are two events that happened not long before Jesus' death. Choose an age-appropriate children's Bible to read these stories. Consider adding crafts or props for each story to help your kids engage.
Tell or read the story of Jesus washing the disciples' feet, and then literally follow His example by having a foot-washing ceremony with your family. Here's how to pull this off: Get a large bucket or basin, some soap or bath oil, water, and plenty of towels. The husband/father leads by washing the feet of his wife and children. Then the wife/mother does the same, followed by the kids - from oldest to youngest.
(We usually do this after dinner before we put the kids to bed, and our girls say this is one of their favorite Easter traditions.)
This was the night Jesus had his last supper with His disciples. Plan a special meal together and talk about how hard it must have been for Jesus to say goodbye to His closest friends (even though He knew He would see them again). This is a great opportunity to tell your kids about the Gospel as you talk about the bread and the wine (grape juice). If your children have placed their trust in Christ, have Communion together at the end of the meal.
(In our family we prepare a Christian Passover meal (Seder). It is a wonderful part of our Easter tradition, but takes a fair amount of work to pull off. If you're interested there are some good resources online to help you do this.)
Attend Good Friday service together (6:30 pm at GFC… we have some wonderful things planned for the kids and adults!). After the service, come home and extinguish the Jesus Candle that has been burning all week to symbolize the death and burial of Jesus.
Spend quality time together. Depending on the age of your kids, consider using Saturday as a day of fasting (or a partial fast), as you remember that Jesus was in the tomb on this day. Other activities to consider: watch an age-appropriate version of the Jesus story, plant flowers in yard together as a family, go to a park, etc.
Break the fast at dinnertime by preparing a big “break-fast” feast to enjoy as a family in anticipation of the resurrection. (If you attend the Saturday night Easter service, this could be a great meal before or after the service). Consider baking homemade yeast bread earlier in the day (to symbolize Christ rising from the dead) and allow smell to build anticipation for the upcoming meal! (Jodie has a good recipe for cinnamon raisin bread that rises. We only cook it on this one day each year and it has become a fun part of our tradition.)
Very first thing in the morning, light the Jesus Candle to symbolize He is alive! Attend Easter worship service (8:00, 9:15, 11:00 am at GFC). After church, plan a fun family activity… ideally outdoors. Or, serve together as a family (homeless shelter, soup kitchen, do yard work for an elderly person in the neighborhood, etc.).
Rob Sweet, GFC Teaching Pastor
Posted on Thu, April 10, 2014
by Rob Sweet filed under