Beyond Bunny Rabbits: Ways to Celebrate Easter that Include the Cross
April 12, 2017
This post was originally written to specifically address Good Friday, but as we have been preparing for Easter this year with our kids, I realized that we don’t need to separate our Good Friday celebration from our Easter one. The cross and the empty tomb are so intertwined that the meaning would be lost if you took one away.
So as we approach Resurrection Sunday, here are some things you can do with your kids to make sure the focus stays where it is meant to. Not on bunny rabbits, eggs and candy (although those are fun and we do those, too!) but on the reason for our celebrating.
Have your kids ever asked you something that made you realize they sometimes see things much more clearly than you do? As we were driving home after Bible Study the other night, my daughter asked one of those questions.
Sydney: How do we celebrate Good Friday?
Me: Well, you get the day off from school.
Sydney: I know, but we should celebrate it. We celebrate Easter, so we should celebrate Good Friday, too. We wouldn’t have the resurrection without the death on the cross.
Here’s a true confession for you. I have never really thought about celebrating Good Friday. There I was, getting excited about no school on Friday and getting to sleep in a little, as well as wondering how to keep all of the kids entertained without them destroying their rooms, and my daughter made me realize such an important truth –
There wouldn’t be a victory to celebrate if there wasn’t a sacrifice made.
But how do you celebrate Good Friday? Especially with young kids? How do you focus their attention on what God did for all of us in a way that is understandable, memorable, meaningful and available?
In case any others out there are struggling with similar questions, here are few suggestions from my family to yours.
Read the Easter Story Together
We have four kids, ages one to ten, so over the years we have gotten lots and lots and lots of children’s Bibles. Any of them would be a good choice for reading out of, but my absolute favorite is the Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. The whole book shows how Jesus and God’s plan for Him is woven throughout the entire Bible, both Old and New Testament. The part about Jesus’s death on the cross is done so beautifully and with such heart, that I’ve been known to tear up a little when reading it aloud.
We got ours at Mardel (a Christian bookstore nearby that is owned by Hobby Lobby), but you can find it on Amazon or at any number of other bookstores.
Make Resurrection Rolls
Our family did this for the first time last year, and it was a big hit. On the Friday before Easter, after reading the story of Jesus’s death on the cross, we made these as a special breakfast to be baked Easter morning. While making them, we went through the story of Jesus’s death again, then left the end as a surprise for Sunday morning.
1 10 oz can of crescent dinner rolls
8 large marshmallows
¼ cup melted butter in one small bowl
2 tablespoons cinnamon and 2 tablespoons sugar mixed together in another small bowl
Step 1 – Separate the crescent rolls into individual triangles while you talk about the crucifixion.
Step 2 – Take each marshmallow and dip it in the butter, then roll it in the cinnamon and sugar. We talk about how after Jesus gave up His life, they took Him down from the cross and cleaned His body, then used linen and spices to wrap Him up.
Step 3 – Place the coated marshmallow on a triangle of crescent roll, and wrap the marshmallow up, being sure to press the edges of roll together to seal it. This symbolizes Jesus being buried in the tomb. Put the rolls in a lightly greased bowl, cover and stick in the refrigerator.
Step 4 – On Easter morning, preheat oven to 400° and put the rolls on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake about 15 minutes or until golden brown.
When you cut into the rolls, the marshmallow will have melted, symbolizing Jesus’s resurrection from the dead.
What’s a holiday without decorations? My kids love decorating for holidays – I’m pretty sure they measure the importance of a holiday by the amount of decorations we put up. Since Target doesn’t have a Good Friday section, we have come up with something else. I didn’t think bunnies were appropriate for the Good Friday part of our Easter celebration, so we do something a little simpler.
We have a wooden cross hanging in our front porch entry. The kids and I will drape a purple cloth on it on Friday, then change it to a white one on Easter morning. This is pretty simple, but it gives another way to talk about the holiday.
I know some people dislike the commercialization of Easter and the hype around Easter eggs, but, let’s be honest, my kids really enjoy hunting for eggs, opening them up to see what candy they got, and filling their baskets. Truthfully, I find the whole thing pretty fun, too. So as a way to incorporate the fun of Easter eggs with the truth of Easter, I found these (these are put out by FamilyLife, but you can find them elsewhere also).
Each egg has a small toy inside that symbolizes a different part of the Easter story – a donkey, a crown of thorns, a linen cloth, etc. There is a small book that comes with the eggs where you can read the verse associated with the toy and a small bit about why it is important to the story. We have been doing one egg a day leading up to Easter, but you could do the whole carton at once, too.
If you don’t want to spend the money on these, make your own. In each egg you can put a piece of paper with the bible verse written on it, as well as a picture of the object if you want the visual aid. The objects used in these eggs are: a donkey, silver coins, a cup, praying hands, a whip, a rooster, a crown of thorns, nails shaped into a cross, a spear, a linen cloth, a stone, and the last egg is empty to symbolize the empty tomb. The verses are all taken from the gospel accounts of Jesus’s last days from Palm Sunday leading up to Easter morning.
These are all just ideas our family has come up with to explain to our kids the meaning of Good Friday and Easter. I know it is by no means exhaustive, so if you have any other ideas, or things you do that works well for your family, PLEASE share!
Sandra Samoska is a writer with a love for Jesus and a love for family. When she's not chasing around her four kids and doing all the things, you can find her writing about the ways God shows up in our every day lives.