Friday, April 10, 2015

Thoughts on Easter

     I've thought considerably about Easter traditions this year. Why is Easter celebrated as it is? What do I wish for our family's Easter celebration to be?

Past and Present Celebrations

      Last year, I was an overwhelmed first-time Mama. The holiday had arrived before I even realized it, and I was unprepared. I was then made aware of the Easter celebration expectations that I had failed to meet- the new dressy Easter outfits, photo with the Easter Bunny, Easter egg hunts, and the Easter basket filled with treats.

His Easter basket included: bubbles,
Annie's Bunny crackers,
My Farm Friends board book,
 sleeved bib,
and Baby Einstein "Meet the Orchestra" DVD
     This year, moved by a desire to not disappoint I decided to put forth greater effort into preserving some of these traditions. I debated purchasing new Easter outfits, but ultimately didn't quite know what was suitable for the occasion and didn't favor spending the money for an outfit that wasn't practical for everyday wear. We also skipped the Easter egg hunt. I think the egg hunt would be more enjoyable when he's older and the primary participant versus Mama picking up eggs for him. We did assemble an Easter basket for him. I purchased a modest basket and some eggs. I then spent weeks trying to figure out what to put in that basket. I browsed the internet, and was amazed at the contents of Easter baskets nowadays! When did Easter gifting become as extravagant as Christmas?! I decided to limit the gifting to five items: 1- something he could read, 2- something he could wear, 3- something he needed, 4- something he wanted (ie a toy or activity), and 5- something he could eat. I didn't want to purchase junky toys or foods, but things that are worthwhile and searched for so long that the items barely arrived in time. Even though we did offer an Easter basket, we didn't make much mention of the Easter Bunny or the story of he bringing the basket. We also skipped the photo with the Easter Bunny. We simply left the basket's appearance as simply part of the Easter celebration. 

     Honestly, the basket was tough for me to put together. My love language is not gifts, but quality time. Therefore, my focus was more on Easter-themed activities we could do together in the time leading up to Easter than the basket of stuff on Easter morning. I personally find activities and quality time much more fulfilling than stuff. This aspect of celebrating Easter was an enjoyable one and one that I intend to include every year. (Our Easter activities this year included: Easter Egg Drop, Easter Egg Water Play, Footprint Art, and lots of play with Easter eggs in general).

     Somewhere along the line in going through these traditions, I began to seriously question their purpose and message. Honestly, I'm not certain if we'll continue them in the future.     

The Cross, the Bunny, or Both

     At the root of the dilemma is this- Do I wish for our family's celebration to be about the cross, the bunny or both? I was raised within these traditional Easter customs, and so was David. Yet, I find myself desiring to exclude those these from our family's celebration. I find myself desiring one thing alone and that is to make Easter a purely religious occasion.

      It's long been fascinating to me how Christians will stand and fight for "Jesus is the reason for the season" and "Keep Christ in Christmas" platforms. Some will abstain from the inclusion of the Santa Claus figure and story. Others may make a birthday cake for Jesus. This is a touchy subject for sure. Yet, there is wide acceptance of celebrating Easter with the Easter Bunny and baskets of gifts etc. If there was ever an occasion for "Jesus is the reason for the season" slogan, then Easter is it.

    The fact is there is no Biblical basis for either holiday. We are not instructed to celebrate either occasion. The difference lies in the whether the holiday was made to fit the religious event or the event for the holiday. Christmas is an occasion in which the religious event was made to fit the holiday. Easter, on the other hand, is an occasion in which the holiday was created to fit the religious event. 
     As a family, we have chosen to not celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday. We don't necessarily celebrate the Santa Claus or other seasonal stories either. Instead, we focus intensely on sharing moments together within the season. Togetherness moments like decorating the house, watching holiday movies, baking (and eating!) yummy holiday treats etc. It's the moments together that we hope create the magic of the Christmas season for our children.
     In regard to Easter, my heart is to also convey greater significance of the occasion. Easter is a bit different than Christmas in that it seems appropriate to me for it to be a religious holiday. How do I convey it to be such to our children, though?

     My experience with Easter lessons have been one or two ways: 1) overly graphic in the portrayal of the crucifixion and/or 2) overly simplified and "sweetened." In one of our former churches, the children were excluded from the Easter service due to the graphic imagery displayed on the screen (usually clips from videos depicting the crucifixion). I, being a very visual person, would try to look away and busy my mind, but would still leave feeling sick. I suppose some individuals may need a visual or other descriptive telling of human suffering to grasp the concept, but that has never been necessary for me. I hated Easter services.

     Children certainly can't be exposed to such content, yet are still expected to grasp the same message. Their lesson may include very abbreviated and edited versions of the crucifixion story, sweet treats like resurrection rolls, crafts depicting a cross or tomb with a cheery-looking Jesus standing nearby, Resurrection Eggs etc. I recall several of these activities when I worked for a Christian preschool. I wondered if the children were merely picking up on it being just another story and another set of activities. How does one possibly balance these two lesson styles and really impress upon children the meaning of this occasion? (I'm not condemning these activities in any means and feel that they do compliment the holiday well, and we'll probably use them as part of our own holiday activities at some point.)

       As with most faith-related instances, I believe the greatest way to teach is not through what is said but what is seen. In other words, for my children to grasp the significance of this occasion they need to observe it having a significant impact and influence on me. How do I approach Easter personally? Am I personally in celebration of the message of the event? I want my children to see that this event, this holiday, isn't just about fun activities/traditions and going to church. This occasion is deeply personal. It's an occasion that I wish to talk about at it approaches, not because I feel a need to teach them but because I'm so personally moved by it.

     And so, next year we may celebrate Easter in a different way that we've done in the past. We may do away with the bunny and basket. We may, instead, focus on preparing our hearts for the coming day in which Jesus, our Savior, removes our sins forever and rises. We will, of course, continue to also include simple seasonal activities that we can enjoy together. But may our greatest joy of this season be found in the message of redemption.

     That is what my heart longs to see my children grasp from this holiday.

A resource* we may incorporate into our family's Easter celebration next year:

(*Note: I am a personal affiliate with As such, I receive a small compensation for any purchases made through links on this site. Thank you!)

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