I love Christmas. The spiced fruit mince tarts, joyful church services, mangoes, the gatherings with bad cracker jokes, the carols that make us “Hark” and think of God sending His Son to earth. That precious baby Jesus.
In the Southern hemisphere where I live, Christmas is a twinkly, fun end of year celebration that also heralds summer and beach holidays.
But after years of being involved in Childrens’ Talks at Christmas church services, I have found myself saying that Jesus “did not stay a baby in the manger in Bethlehem – he grew up and as a man who died to save us”.
Like most followers of Jesus, I kept talking about Easter at Christmas time.
In my own Christian family, we have celebrated Easter at Bible Conventions, at Church Camps and at Good Friday and Easter Sunday Church services. All of these things have been absolutely fantastic as a corporate celebration of Easter.
However, over the years I have wondered how my own home reflects the insurmountable joy that we feel when we think about Jesus dying for us and redeeming us. If someone walked into my house, “would they know it’s Easter time at all?”
In an effort to balance our response to celebrate “Jesus as a baby” and “Jesus as a man”, my family has reshaped some of the traditions of Christmas to celebrate at Easter time. I am hoping that it helps to shape their understanding of the good news of Jesus which is so physically demonstrated at Easter.
If we can manage at Christmas to have twinkle lights, indoor Christmas trees, nativities and tinsel, perhaps we can consider a physical decoration to use at Easter?
In our house, we put up a series of stained glass window pictures of crosses that we made using coloured cellophane.
We have a vase full of sticks that we hang with decorated crosses and symbols of new-life-like eggs, flowers and plants.
On Easter Sunday, we put up the words, “Christ is risen, He is risen indeed!” We also try to put up a verse each year about what Jesus did at Easter.
All of these things are simple and home-made with textas and cardboard. These are some of the verses we have used: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”!!* (Romans 5:8)
“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God”!!* (1 Peter 3:18)
*Exclamation marks added by me!!
There are many books available now for simple family devotions in the lead up to Easter. Using a good picture Bible could work too. Because I like drawing, when our kids were young I made an “Easter Advent” – a series of pictures that we place up on a board each day in the weeks before Easter, illustrating the ministry of Jesus from his baptism to the Easter weekend, then his ascension.
The Easter story is essential, but there are so many stories of the risen Jesus that are a joy to celebrate too! Our aim is to also tell of the risen and ascended Jesus, so that our kids have a clearer picture of “where Jesus is now”.
“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried. That he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time …” (1 Corinthians 15:3-6)
My husband and I endeavour to buy the children a gift at Easter each year that encourages them spiritually. In the past we have chosen an Easter picture book or manga-style Easter comic.
As they have grown older, we have bought Christian music CDs, biographies, colouring/journal bibles or a new Christian book.
4. Special Food
In the lead-up to Easter, many Christians actually go without food in the tradition of lent. My husband and I choose to give up something like chocolate and sometimes our kids join in.
We enjoy the tradition of a Christian Passover meal on the Thursday before Good Friday – “Easter Eve” – with lamb (lamb sausages, when the kids were little), flatbread, boiled eggs, parsley and charoset (grated apple with almond meal).
Easter Monday is now called “Fish Day” in our house.
We also watch the animated movie The Prince of Egypt to help fill in the history of God’s plan, the ancestry of Jesus and the way he is the ultimate sacrificial lamb.
On Good Friday, we ensure that we have that most amazing symbolic food of spiced hot cross buns and, on Easter Sunday, chocolate eggs that we symbolically smash to illustrate the empty tomb.
Easter Monday is now called “Fish Day” in our house. For years we have had a fish and chip lunch and retold the story of the resurrected Jesus and the miracle of the huge catch of fish (see John 21).
We keep it simple with oven cooked fish, (even fish fingers one year, when the kids were little).
It is like our “Boxing Day”; a more relaxed atmosphere where we are not attending a church service, but still have a public holiday and some time to share a memorable meal. Again, we are hoping to stretch our children’s understanding that Jesus did not end his time on earth standing in front of a tomb.
5. Seasonal Songs
I am a Christmas carol tragic and would play the songs all year if I could! Who doesn’t feel the delight of Hark the Herald Angels Sing and O Holy Night while swaying with a candle? In the southern hemisphere, our daylight hours are shorter at Easter – perhaps this is a time to use our candles and sway to songs of our great saviour on the cross and rising again?
Those great songs that are so well chosen for Easter services are easily available to be played on Spotify – or CD players! – at home.
We listen to versions of Nicky Chiswell’s song Resurrection every Easter Sunday at breakfast.
6. Seasonal Movies
Just as we have favourite movies at Christmas like Elf, The Star and Mr Bean’s Christmas, we have tried to establish traditional movies at Easter.
As I said earlier, we watch The Prince of Egypt on the night we celebrate a Passover, as it prepares our hearts to understand the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on Good Friday.
In my opinion, Easter really is the most wonderful time of the year.
On Easter Sunday, we watch The Case for Christ, a movie containing a clear presentation of the history of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The facts are very beautifully threaded within the personal story of Lee Strobel and the way that Jesus changes his wife’s life and, then, his own.
I am not saying that we all need to develop new traditions that burden us and introduce yet another stress in a celebratory season. Nobody needs new stresses or high expectations in our new COVID world.
But I am suggesting that you take advantage of having more people in your house or your new sourdough-making skills to adopt some celebratory memories in your home this Easter.
The passion of our Christ is so deeply amazing, it is also worthy of lights and joy and song.
In my opinion, it really is the most wonderful time of the year.