Monday, March 18, 2013

Planning a Christ-Centered Easter

I've mentioned before that I am a holiday worrier and I am passionate about building worthwhile family traditions. Apparently I've been working to perfect this trait for a long time. Many years ago, long before Cameron or any of our kids were in my life, I found this book at a book store and snatched it up in a heartbeat.
It is a useful little book full of ideas for keeping Easter centered on Christ. Don't get me wrong--I think dying Easter eggs is fun, and I enjoy Cadbury and Russell Stover. But I want our kids to understand that we rejoice at Easter because of Jesus Christ, not chocolate.

Our Easter traditions are in a constant state of evolution. As a general rule, we enjoy spending the week leading up to Easter focusing on what Christ did each day in the week before the first Easter. Cameron and I brainstormed and mapped out a rough plan a couple weeks ago. Then we held a little family council with the kids where we chose an Easter song from the Children's Songbook that we want to learn over the next couple of weeks. Our goal is to practice the song each night as part of our family scripture study. Then for the week of Easter here is our plan:

On Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Easter), we always re-enact Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Cameron is always the donkey, and each child takes a turn riding on him while the rest of us wave "palm branches" (usually green towels) and shout Hosanna. We like to explain the story to the kids, and I am especially fond of the version in Luke 19--I love talking to the kids about how the stones would have cried out in joy at Christ's arrival.

On Monday we discuss how Christ cleansed the temple. I love the version from Matthew 21. We can explain to the kids that after the temple was cleansed, Christ healed the blind and the lame (see verse 14). Similarly, we can serve Christ better when we are clean and worthy.

On Tuesday we like to choose a couple of the teachings or parables that Jesus shared on the Tuesday before Easter. This year Cameron and I are choosing to focus on Matthew 22: 36-40 where Christ shares the commandments to love God and love our fellow man. We'll be discussing with the kids specific ways that our choices can demonstrate our love for God and others.

On Wednesday we're going to be talking to the kids about Judas and his tragic choice to sell Christ. We will prepare a couple little examples of choices we might make to "sell Christ"--little everyday decisions we might make that aren't what He would want. We'll be doing some role playing and re-enacting to bring it all down to our kids' level.

On Thursday evening we would usually be having our Passover dinner. But alas, this year Cameron's mom offered to take the kids for a night so we could have a little getaway. It so happened that this was the only night that fit in our crazy school/pregnancy/kids schedule any time in the next three months, so we jumped on it. So Thursday evening this year we will be praising the name of my mother-in-law and enjoying a little breather.

On Friday we will have our little Passover dinner with our kids. There is rich symbolism behind the traditional Passover food. We recently had a little family night lesson on Moses, the children of Israel, and the first Passover to help the kids piece things together a bit. I like to keep our Passover meal fairly simple. This year we're planning lentil soup and a side platter of cheese, olives, and dried fruit (similar to foods Jesus would have eaten) along with the traditional Passover unleavened bread, roasted eggs, romaine lettuce, and haroset (a mixture of apples, nuts, cinnamon, and grape juice. There is a basic recipe for haroset here if you are interested.)

We also like to read this book by Caralyn Buehner with the kids and discuss the Atonement on a basic, child's level. From our experience, movies depicting the crucifixion are pretty scary for our kids at this age. But we like the tasteful way this book deals with Easter.
                                    In the Garden
On Saturday we have traditionally done Easter baskets, complete with a little trail of jelly beans/fruit snacks/mini marshmallows/fill-in-the-blank sugary item that leads from the kids rooms to the Easter goodies in the living room.
We like to do baskets on Saturday so they don't detract from the Savior's triumph on Easter morning. We will also decorate Easter eggs and enjoy traditional Easter activities.

On Easter Sunday we always have popovers for breakfast--they're empty inside like Christ's tomb on Easter morning. We like to fill them with lots of whipped cream and yogurt and things. While we enjoy them we typically share our testimonies of Jesus Christ, His perfect life, Atonement, and Resurrection.

Easter is a beautiful time of year, and I love ramping up for it by studying the gospels personally and with our kids. He is risen, and I want to teach our kids to rejoice in the eternal life He offers us.

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