Easter traditions that get to the heart of Easter
Despite attempts to commercialize it, Easter is still a religious holiday. Chicks and bunnies may decorate many Easter baskets and holiday displays but there is still an abundance of lambs to remind us of the Lamb. With repeated attempts to make Easter more marketable I believe it is important to remind my girls what the symbols of Easter really mean. That is not to say that we don't color eggs and buy the frilliest dresses we can find. But these things are not in themselves a celebration of Easter. They are the props we use to make our celebration of Easter come alive.
One of the biggest ticket items at Easter time are the dresses. And my girls do love to dress up for Easter. We even deck them out in the hats and the gloves. They love getting jewelry and purses and cute little sweaters to go with their exceptionally frilly Easter dresses. But we explain to them that the reason we are dressing up is to honor God. Going to church is a privilege and a special occasion. Therefore, we dress up accordingly.
As both commercialization and tradition seems to dictate, we decorate Easter eggs. The girls love mixing the dye colors to see what colors result. And last year we wrote on the eggs with white crayon before we dipped them. They were delighted when the "secret" messages were revealed. It is usually a messy process with a least one spilled dye cup. But learning should be an enjoyable experience. And, unfortunately, enjoyment often equals mess.
So what are they learning in all this chaos and mess? The eggs are the symbol during our hunt, which I will explain below. But I try not to waste the learning opportunity available during the decorating process. I talk to the girls about why we celebrate Easter, the sacrifice Jesus made. Depending on how receptive they are this will either be a very simple talk or an in depth discussion as I try to answer all their questions.
However, it is most often just a simple talk because they are so caught up in their creation. Therefore, it's best to decorate your eggs at least a day in advance. This allows them time to calm down and transition and it also helps build the excitement as they think about the treasure hunt that is coming. (We have tried to decorate the eggs the same day as our hunt, but then the decoration becomes the entire focus.)
So the next day (or several days later) we will have our Easter egg hunt. But we don't start the day with the hunt, we start with breakfast. First (and most obvious) candy on an empty stomach is never a good idea. Second this again allows the excitement to build. But most importantly this allows us story time. During (or just after) breakfast we talk about the story of Easter. How Jesus was perfect - he did not sin. And he paid the price for our sins so that we would not have too if we would just accept his sacrifice.
Then we talk about how on Easter morning the women went to the tomb to look for Jesus. But he wasn't there. We use the story as told in John chapter 20 (Matthew 28, Mark 16 and Luke 24 all contain the story as well). After we've shared the story I, or my husband, explain to the girls that the reason we search for the eggs is because we are mimicking the women who went out on Easter morning to search for Jesus. He was the treasure they searched for.
Our Easter egg hunt (or treasure hunt) follows story time. This way the associations are fresh in their minds as they enjoy hunting for their eggs. The symbols have a meaning beyond the commercialization.
Then sometime later that week we open the Easter egg they received from church. It contains a picture board of Jesus' last week with sticker decals that the girls add as we go over the story. Any interactive story aid will involve them in the story and remind them of what they've learned.
So we may do all the "commercial" things associated with Easter but we invest each symbol with meaning. Thus our Easter finery becomes a symbol of the privilege and honor of worshiping Jesus. Our Easter eggs become symbols of the ultimate treasure - Jesus. As we search for the Easter eggs we are acting out the women's search for Jesus. And we remind them of the meaning behind all these symbols with an interactive story aid. All the celebrating is fun for the girls and each aspect reminds them of the importance of Easter and Christ's sacrifice for us.