Straying from the Bunny: Celebrating Holy Week with Children

Steering Away from the Easter BunnyI love Lent.  I welcome the challenge of self-sacrifice and simplifying.  The ideas of fish fries, soup suppers, and people coming together to build community rooted in their faith inspires me and gives me hope for our Church.  Since my husband and I became parents almost 11 years ago, we have strayed from images of the “bunny” to teach our kids about Easter.  We have some annual traditions and things we try every so often to emphasize with our three children the true reason for Lent and the Easter Season.

1.) Every night before bed during Lent, we read from the book The Story of the Cross – Stations of the Cross for Children (by Mary Joslin, published by Loyola Press).  It’s a very simplified yet beautiful and meaningful depiction of the Stations.

2.) Inspired by the decorations, or lack there of, in our church at the start of Lent, we “un-decorate.”.  On Palm Sunday (although if you’re really feeling up to it, you could start on Ash Wednesday), we take down and temporarily pack away all the decorations in our family room, including picture frames, items on shelves, decorative pillows, accent rugs, etc.  It looks very barren and empty!  But it serves as a constant reminder of the necessity to simplify in order to make room for God.  I redecorate on Holy Saturday night after the kids have gone to bed.

3.) On Good Friday beginning around noon when Jesus was crucified, we begin a three hour “retreat.”  We started this when your oldest was four years old.  I put out a jar with tiny papers folded up inside that I prepared the night before.  Each paper has an activity that the person who chooses it devotes a set amount of time to, usually 20-30 minutes.  We each pick a paper and then set the timer.  Activities have ranged from art projects or reading, to cleaning or going for a walk.  Here are a few that have worked well for us:

  • Paint or draw a picture of one of the Stations of the cross and hang it in the kitchen
  • Find a quiet space and read Luke 22-23 or Mark 15
  • Read the Weeds Among the Wheat (Mark 13-24-30) and weed the shrub beds
  • Wash the front door and reflect on good hospitality as a sign of Christianity
  • Write a card or letter of support to someone you know who is going through a difficult time (children can make a card)

Some of these activities are a way to “pray the work,” as Mother Teresa said, as we work individually, yet together, to prepare the house to host our larger family on Easter.  I usually write the activities in three different colors to designate who they are for (for example, blue for kids, purple for parents, and black for either kids or parents).  Then, the final activity is a silent car ride to a 3pm Good Friday service.

4.) On Holy Saturday, we make either “Resurrection Rolls” or “Empty Tomb” cookies (both of which you can search online and find many websites with recipes). Both of these treats hold a surprise that amazes the children every time!

Have a blessed Holy Week and Easter!

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