It’s easy for kids to take a look around at this time of the year and jump to the conclusion that Easter is all about indulgence. Hot Cross Buns have been in the shops for months. Battalions of iridescent chocolate rabbits and eggs clamour for attention at eye level in every direction. The true meaning of Easter has been lost in the stampede to the cash register.
Regardless of whether or not you have raised your child in the Christian faith, you may want them to have an understanding of the true meaning of Easter. Not just a Christian festival, Easter also draws upon traditions from other religions including the Jewish faith and Paganism. Equipping your child with a working knowledge of the meaning of Easter will encourage them to be tolerant of diversity and respectful of other faiths.
So, as a parent, how do you switch the focus back to the real story and real meaning of Easter…love, sacrifice, death, resurrection and redemption? And how do you make it accessible and captivating to them?
These simple tips will give you a head start:
Explaining the meaning of Easter needn’t be all about death
Discussing the betrayal and ultimate crucifixion of Jesus Christ is a central and unavoidable part of the Easter narrative, but it’s not the whole story. Easter is also about rebirth. Touch on the concept of ‘death’ with your kids by telling the Easter story, and perhaps talking to them about a previous loss of a loved one, or even a pet, and how that made them feel. Then move on. Don’t let them be overwhelmed by the frightening or unpalatable aspects of the story.
You can balance the tragedy of the Easter story by emphasising the wonderful events that followed – the appearance of an angel and the empty tomb. Talk to your children about what that means in terms of rebirth and forgiveness. Draw parallels between the resurrection and things that may be familiar to your child.
For example, help them to grasp the concept of resurrection by getting them to think about a caterpillar spinning a cocoon and disappearing, only to re-emerge in a different form as a beautiful butterfly. From this perspective, the ‘real’ meaning of Easter is new life, which is why we enjoy buying, eating or just brightly decorating eggs. It creates a sense of joy and of celebration – and the egg is the ultimate symbol of a new life waiting to emerge
Make the meaning of Easter an ongoing conversation
Don’t wait until the eggs start to appear in the shops to talk about the meaning of Easter. Be proactive. Make the conversation with your child a fluid and evolving one. If you are particularly crafty, consider creating an Easter countdown. Check out these great Easter ideas.
If not, help your child add scrap booking decorations, stickers or small pictures to the key dates on your existing calendar so that they can see them as they draw nearer. Use your countdown calendar to help your child see Easter as the story of the last week of Jesus Christ’s life, they can draw on this understanding to join the dots and see Christmas as a celebration of his birth.
Keep the language simple and age-appropriate
When dealing with any difficult topic, it helps to take cues from your child and the questions they ask you. What do they want to know about the meaning of Easter? Your answers to their questions don’t need to be complex or lengthy – just give them what they ask for.
Draw parallels where necessary in order to link abstract concepts back to concrete examples. Use simple words and concepts and break the big picture down into manageable chunks like this!
Enjoy Easter activities that teach while creating special memories
Take your child to your local church or a school in your area to see the Stations of the Cross being reenacted. This way, your family can experience first-hand the contrast between the sadness of Good Friday and the joy of Easter Sunday. For locations and times see here.
Most of all, spend time together as a family to create your own traditions and understandings of Easter.
Talk about the origins of Easter traditions and symbols
Finally, assist them to make a link between the meaning of Easter and the modern preoccupation with symbols such as chocolate eggs, fluffy chicks and the Easter Bunny. Talk to them about how children across the world and throughout the ages have celebrated Easter.
Then share your fondest memories of Easter with them, be it participating in an Easter hat parade at school or making your own Easter eggs. Other symbols of the meaning of Easter are discussed here.
Try these suggestions to help your child see the meaning of Easter as a compelling tale of tragedy capped off with the joy and mystery of new life. You will be well on the way to equipping them to look beyond the momentary attraction of gleaming foil and short-lived chocolate to find a real and enduring cause for celebration.