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Children and Easter
Children and Fasting in Lent
Pancake Tuesday: The day before Lent begins is Pancake Tuesday. This is not a Biblical celebration, but has become a tradition based on using up eggs and rich foods before Lent begins. It's a great fun day for children as they can take part in mixing up the ingredients and perhaps even tossing the pancakes!.
Ash Wednesday: The day after Pancake Tuesday is Ash Wednesday. It is about forty days before Easter Day and falls on the Sunday nearest the fourth full moon of the year.
Ash Wednesday is when fasting begins. It is also when children can participate in a service that is often called 'The Imposition of the Ashes.' During this service the sign of the cross is made on people's foreheads, using ashes made from burned palm crosses saved from the previous year's Palm Sunday.
Sunday is a Feast Day: During Lent it is traditional to fast except on a Sunday, which is always a feast day. Children can join this fast by giving up something they enjoy, such as sweets, chocolates, or ice-cream, and donating their pocket-money to a worthy cause. Some families prefer to take on something extra instead, such as helping an elderly neighbour. It's a time when we think of what Jesus gave up so that our sins could be forgiven.
Palm Sunday Celebration
Palm Sunday commemorates the day when Jesus rode into Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives and was hailed as 'King of the Jews.' Crowds of people followed Him along this steep road, waving palm branches and shouting 'Hosannah! Praise God!'.
Some people even put some of their clothes on the roadway. As we found when two of our children followed that route on a camel, this was a very practical thing to do for Jesus' young colt. The road was so steep that the camel-driver had to put his boot in front of the camel's huge hoofs to stop him from slipping.
Children can celebrate Palm Sunday by joining in a procession waving palm branches. In some places it may be that all the churches walk around the town, in others, around the church. If it is around the town, children may be chosen to read a passage from Scripture as the procession stops at each of the churches. It is a very happy occasion.
The First Three Days of Holy Week
The next three days after Palm Sunday are often called the first three days of Holy Week, or the first three days of Easter. They were a very busy time for Jesus and His Disciples as Jesus knew that His time left on earth was very short.
Although Jesus tried to tell HIs followers about what was going to happen to Him, they did not understand and did not want to listen. They wanted Jesus to be an earthly Messiah who would lead the Jewish people in a revolt against the Romans whose soldiers occupied their country. Jesus was the Messiah, but he had been sent by God to teach the people about the Kingdom of Heaven and to bring a very special kind of peace to their hearts and the world.
With small children, the Bible readings for these days are probably best read from a children's book of Bible stories or a children's Bible.
Maundy Thursday and the Last Supper
The fourth day of Holy Week is known as Maundy Thursday, which really means 'giving Thursday.' For Jesus and His Disciples it was a very busy day. Jerusalem was filled with people celebrating the Passover. Jesus and His friends celebrated the Passover, or Seder Meal together, too, but first He served them as a servant would, by washing the Disciples' feet. We now call the meal they shared 'The Last Supper,' as it was the last meal that Jesus shared with them before he was killed.
Christians Remember the Last Supper in Different Ways.
- On Maundy Thursday they may share a meal together, perhaps at church.
- They may have a short service when they wash each other's feet to remind us to be humble and care for each other.
- There is usually a service of Holy Communion to share symbols of bread and wine; a reminder us Jesus' great sacrifice of His life on the cross, so our sins can be forgiven.
After the meal they walked off to the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. Here Jesus told His Disciples to pray and he went a short distance from them and prayed, too, but the Disciples were tired and they fell asleep.
There were many events all through that night, culminating in the crucifixion of Jesus. Children can learn that Jesus is their Friend, too, a special one who will be always there with them.
This is the day when we eat Hot Cross Buns to remind us of Jesus' sacrifice. Many Christians also fast on this day. But it is special for so much more than thinking about food.
To Jesus' friends and His Disciples, His being killed on a cross like a common criminal seemed was an absolute disaster and anything but 'Good Friday.' We read in the Bible that when He died the sky turned black, there was an earthquake and the curtain in the Temple was torn in half.
You can read about it together and discuss the events with your children.
Ask your children if they know why it is called Good Friday.
- What was Jesus' prayer in the Garden?
- He allowed himself to be killed, why?
- Why do we still remember this terrible event over two thousand years later?
Your children might like to say a little prayer of thanks to God for Good Friday, or you might like to thank Him with your children that He died for us. It was a wonderful gift to all people and it is free for everyone that accepts that gift, so that we can live holy lives for God.
For Jesus' Disciples and all the other Jews, Saturday was the Sabbath, the Day of Rest. When God created the world He rested on the seventh day and when he gave Moses the Ten Commandments He said that this day was to be kept holy and a rest day. God is so wise; we all need to rest and once a week is a good idea.
However, for the friends of Jesus, Holy Saturday was a very sad time. It seemed as if all hope had gone. The women wanted to go and put spices with His body in the tomb, but it was late; they had to observe the Sabbath and wait until the next day. They woke before dawn as they wanted to leave as soon as they could see the first glimmer of light telling that the Sabbath was over and it was the first day of the week.
Easter Day is the day for Easter eggs. How you celebrate the day depends on you. Perhaps you will go to church very early in the morning, perhaps the children will wake up early for an Easter egg hunt, or you may have coloured boiled eggs for breakfast before going to church. All over there world there are many different ways of celebrating Easter Day because for Christians it is so special. The eggs represent both the stone that was rolled away from the entrance to Jesus' tomb, and they also symbolise new life, the Resurrection. In the Northern Hemisphere it is Spring, which symbolises new life, as well.
Easter Day! What a wonderful time of celebration! Jesus had promised that He would rise from the dead, but His friends had seen Him die and were not so sure. Even when the women took their spices to the tomb and came running back to tell them, they could not believe it.
With the Children: You can talk with your children about how the women must have felt when they found the empty tomb and the grave clothes lying there. Everyone had been so sad they had probably been completely ignoring the children, and then this good news came of Jesus' resurrection.
- How would you have felt if you had been one of those children?
- What if you were one of the men who heard the women's story, but did you not believe them and had to go and see for yourself?
What more can I say, except the age-old greeting and response:
THE LORD IS RISEN!
HE IS RISEN INDEED!
I wish you and your children a very happy and blessed Easter!
Christian Ideas for Children
- Preparing Sunday School Activities for Children During Lent
When we are not so busy, holiday time is a good opportunity to plan special Sunday School activities relating to the Church Year. There are suggested ideas for activities Lent, Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter Day, including a Sunday School Camp.
- Christmas Bible Study for Kids
The long Christmas holidays provide a good opportunity for parents to share Bible Study with their children. The Christmas story is a great way to start. There are suggestions for Bible Study activities with both younger and older children.