I grew up in a smattering of Baptist and Evangelical churches. The significance of Easter Sunday was taught well, but it was very much a one-day celebration of Christ dying on the cross for my sins. As a child, I viewed Lent as a strange and exclusive practice involving fish, ashes, and my Catholic friends.
My first step into the world of Lent came as an adult and happened at a community church I attended.They had an Ash Wednesday service along with a “Stations of the Cross” event. For the first time, I truly reflected on the time leading up to Easter. These services invited me into a time of personal reflection, prayer, acts of remembrance, and confession that were foreign to me. I was timid and hesitant to partake at first. However, as I began to contemplate Jesus’ walk towards the cross, I discovered that my soul longed to be led towards God in this way.
Fast forward several years. A neighborhood Anglican church group walked past my house waving palm branches, playing drums and guitars, and declaring, “Hosanna! The King is Coming!” I was in awe of their courage and faith put on display. I decided that very day that I would strive to incorporate the meaningful seasons of Lent and Holy Week into my family’s Easter celebrations.
So, you are now probably wondering, “that sounds good but what is Lent? How can I teach my family about these traditions?” Lent is the first 40 days leading up to Easter (minus the Sundays). As you read this, we are already well on our way, as Lent began on March 2nd . It usually includes fasting or a “giving up of something” to draw one into times of prayer and connection to God. Lent is often tied to the 40 days Jesus fasted in the wilderness, preparing for his public ministry.
Family Easter Ideas and Encouragement
There are many ways to celebrate Easter with your family. If you are new to all of this, then I highly recommend you start here. War & Wilderness: The Why & Way of Lent - Ann Voskamp.
When my kids were little, I began our family Lenten practices with resurrection eggs. Imagine a 12-day count-down to Easter. Every day you open an egg. Inside there will be an object that relates to the story of Jesus’ life leading up to his resurrection. This is a simple, tangible, yet meaningful way to walk children through the Easter story. There are many online resources for resurrection eggs. But if you want to make life easy, check-out Amazon for the eggs I use: Resurrection Eggs 12-Piece Easter Egg Set with Religious Figurines Inside. If you want to go the DIY route check out this resource Resurrection Eggs | Just A Pinch Recipes.
If you are a hands-on family, check out these options for helping children understand the significance of Easter. DIY Mini Resurrection Garden - Kristen Welch and 'How to teach the Easter story to kids: resurrection rolls - teach mama.
Want to press the easy button? You can’t go wrong with reading the Bible! Our family favorite for all ages is The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. If you start at the beginning of Lent and read a story a day, you will land perfectly at Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday. If you start late or get behind just pick and choose the stories you want to read. Focus on the Holy Week stories that begin on Palm Sunday and include the Last Supper, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. I also like the Read and Share Toddler Bible by Gwen Ellis for very young children. You can find both of these books on Amazon. Or use the Easter resource provided by our very own church: The Biggest Story Bible Storybook: Easter Stories.
Have teens? Why not challenge them to read through one of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) before Easter? My personal favorite is John. Nothing will open their hearts like the Word of God. This is also a good time to explore some of the Lenten practices outside your own faith community. Attend an Ash Wednesday, a Good Friday, or Easter sunrise service, or find a church walking through the “Stations of the Cross.”
Depending on the ages of your kids you may be able to select a fasting practice for your family. Have a family meeting. Explain the purpose of fasting as a “taking away of something” to give you more opportunity to connect with God. This could look like replacing a weekly movie night with a night of praise and worship. Or deciding to take the money you would have used on restaurant meals and donate it instead to your local food pantry or a family in need. I don’t know what this looks like for you but it’s a great way to get creative as a family!
Let’s not forget the power of media and story-telling. An organization called Ministry to Children has great videos for school-aged kids on Lent, Palm Sunday, and Easter. Check it out! Children's Message: Prepare for Lent - YouTube. Another resource is Saddleback Kids. The Story of Easter (Jesus' Sacrifice) -YouTube. These videos are informative and just silly enough to keep your kids’ attention. For families with older kids consider watching the movies - the Passion of the Christ, The Son of God, or The Bible Mini-series.
This next idea is one I would like to start as an Easter tradition in my own home. What about having a Passover meal with your family? Better yet, invite some neighbors and practice hospitality! I would suggest doing it on Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter, which commemorates the last supper. Ann Voskamp has a great resource that you can use for the ceremony and food for your Passover. A Christian Passover Easter Meal (annvoskamp.com) This next link is a how-to guide for a Passover meal. The Dinner my Kids Cannot WAIT for ALL Year (jessetreeproject.com)
The Heart of Easter Family Traditions
My final thought is to be realistic. You are not going to win an award for being the craftiest mom of Easter. Nor will you get a special prize if you do something with your family all 40 days of Lent. Instead, choose a starting point. If you have young kids and crafts are your thing… do those. If buying resurrection eggs is more your style – fantastic! If watching a movie about Jesus as a family is all that feels attainable right now – Yeah! Remember this is not about checking things off a list. It is about the heart underneath the activities and practices. As Ann Voskamp says, “Lent isn’t about forfeiting, as much as it it’s about formation. Lent is not about forfeiting stuff as much as it is about forming souls.”
Written by Jessica Delp