The Lenten season, Holy Week, and Easter make up the most important time of the year for Christians. Whether your church celebrates Lent or just Easter, there are many ways in which you can recognize and celebrate this time of year and teach your children why it is so important. This is a great opportunity to teach them that Easter is more than eggs and baskets full of candy.
Lent and Easter
Start with the basics and teach your children exactly what this time of year celebrates and why. Lent is traditionally a part of the Catholic faith, but it is a good time for any Christian to reflect and prepare for Easter Sunday. Lent is the forty days, not including Sundays, before Easter and begins with Ash Wednesday. The word Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word that means “to lengthen.” It refers to this time of year during which the days begin to lengthen. The forty days of Lent, besides being a time to prepare for Easter, represent the days that Jesus spent fasting in the desert. For this reason, many people choose to sacrifice something for the duration of Lent.
Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter. On this day, we remember Jesus’ entrance to Jerusalem. Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion and death of Christ. The next day is Holy Saturday, which is the celebration of Christ being laid in the tomb. On Easter Sunday, we celebrate the fact that Jesus rose from the dead.
An important Jewish holiday that occurs around the same time as Easter is Passover. We often forget that Jesus was a Jew and that his Last Supper was likely a Passover Seder dinner. Teach your children about the tradition of Passover to give them a fuller understanding of who Jesus was. Passover is a commemoration of the Exodus, which is when the Hebrew people were freed from slavery in Egypt. The Israelites were released after God inflected ten plagues on the Egyptians. The tenth and worst plague was the killing of the first born child in every household. God spared his people by instructing them to mark their doors with lamb’s blood to distinguish their homes from Egyptian homes. In this way, the Israelites were spared their first-born children because their homes were passed over, hence the name of the holiday. After the tenth plague, the Egyptian Pharaoh got the message and sent the Israelites home.
Jews celebrate Passover for several days beginning with a special dinner on the first night called the Seder. Many biblical scholars believe that the Last Supper was the Seder dinner that Jesus shared with his apostles the night before he was crucified. To learn more about the Exodus, spend time with your kids reading Bible stories from the Old Testament. If your children are older, read directly from the Bible. You might also send your older children on a research mission to learn more about the traditions of Passover and what they mean.
But Passover and the Seder dinner is much more than the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. In fact, many elements of the Passover and the Seder dinner point to Jesus and His redemptive work on the cross for all mankind, the symbolism a foreshadowing of the Savior. The Messianic organization Jews for Jesus has a wonderful presentation on “Christ in the Passover.” If you cannot arrange to have a member of the Jews for Jesus organization come and do this presentation at your church, then at least go online at https://www.jewsforjesus.org/programs/cip  and learn about it yourself.
Sacrificing for Lent
Sacrificing something that is important to you for Lent is a good lesson in restraint and will power. It also teaches us to feel compassion for those who lack all of the wonderful things that we have. Although Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights, we are not expected to perform such a feat. While giving up one thing for the duration of Lent or to fast for one day isn’t enough to get a feeling for what Jesus went through in the desert, it does allow us to forsake the physical in a quest for the spiritual.
To get in the spirit of emulating Jesus and to prepare for Easter, consider making a sacrifice as a family. Maybe you can all give up sweets together, or you could stop playing video games. You could sacrifice your time by devoting extra hours each week to volunteering in a soup kitchen or other charity for the needy. A sacrifice, especially at this time of year, is a wonderful way to discover servant living, which is the essence of Jesus’s earthly life and the focus of our work on this earth as His followers.
The sacrifices traditionally made by Catholics during the period of Lent created the celebration that precedes Ash Wednesday and is now celebrated by people of all faiths as more of a secular event. Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is the day (or sometimes several days) before the start of Lent. It is considered to be a time for celebrating and indulging before the sacrifices of Lent.
Although most Christians celebrate Easter, different ethnic groups have their own specific traditions. Begin by exploring the celebrations of your own heritage. Teach your children about customs that are special to your heritage. If you don’t know what they are, learn together and then try them out. For instance, if you are English, you can make hot cross buns. These are traditionally made and eaten on Good Friday in England.
Arts and Crafts
There are so many different types of arts and crafts that you can do with your kids to celebrate the season. Here are just a few to try out:
- Dye eggs. Dyeing hard-boiled eggs is a traditional art form in many cultures at Easter time. Turn it into a science lesson by delving into the types of dyes you can use and how they work. Explore the possibility of natural dyes. Use your creations to decorate the house or for an egg hunt, which can double as exercise time.
- Giant eggs. Make giant Easter eggs for decoration. Start with a blown up balloon in a roughly egg shape. Cut up different lengths of yarn and dip them in white glue. Wrap the yarn around the balloon in various patterns (this is the creative part). Hang the balloon up to dry. When the glue has dried, pop the balloon, and you have an egg.
- Wreaths. Wreaths are not just for Christmas. Take advantage of the spring weather and go for a group walk. Gather up items that you think represent spring and make them into a wreath. Learn about drying flowers as a component of your wreath.
- Make a cross too. The same items you collect for your Easter wreath can be made into a cross, the ultimate symbol of Christ and Easter.
- Bunny ears. Create bunny ear headbands using various crafting supplies. You can attach them to a headband or create a headband out of construction paper. Wear your ears all day.
- Use eggshells in a biology experiment. Use an empty eggshell to sprout seeds. Watch your sprouts grow and talk about what happened in the seed to make it do that. Death and resurrection is vividly portrayed in this lesson.
- Make a rabbit salad for dinner. A half of a canned pear is the body. A dollop of cottage cheese is the cotton tail. Use almonds for ears, and raisins or candies for eyes and noses. Encourage your kids to think of other ways to make a rabbit or any other spring animal.
Easter, and spring as well, is a wonderful time of year. Take time to celebrate the resurrection of Christ with your kids while also teaching them valuable lessons and having fun.
©2012 Off the Grid News