Usually, Holy Week involves multiple trips to church for special activities. But this year we look forward to a Stay-at-Home-Easter. That doesn’t mean it can’t be glorious!
Holy Week and Easter traditionally provide a wealth of opportunities for remembering, meditating and celebrating at church. Adults may set aside time for more intense prayer, study, and service. But what do families, especially those with younger children, do at home for Holy Week and Easter?
“While many families celebrate Advent in the home, it may be harder to observe Holy Week at home,” acknowledged Lynn Gilliam. “After all, it’s much easier to talk with our children about the baby in the manger than it is to discuss Jesus’ death and the events leading up to it. But just as the observance of Advent helps us to prepare for the celebration of Christmas, observing Holy Week helps prepare us for the joyous celebration of Easter.”
Gilliam, senior editor of Pockets, a magazine for children published by The Upper Room, shares additional ideas to help families journey toward Easter together and then to make Easter a season-long, rather than one-day, celebration.
Have simpler meals. Fasting, one of the most ancient spiritual disciplines, is not appropriate for everyone, certainly not for young children. But simplifying meals can remind everyone of the solemnity of the week leading up to sunset on Holy Saturday. Simply eliminating desserts is an easy way to do this. Talk to your children about how giving up something we enjoy can remind us of Jesus’ giving up his life for us.
Read together about the events of the last weeks of Jesus’ life in your Bible. Children who are old enough and enjoy reading can read some of the passages to the family. “Easter Eggs with a Difference” provides one way to read many of the pertinent passages with your family and talk about them. Other classics are The Legend of the Easter Egg by Lori Walburg and Easter Love Letters from God by Glenys Nellist.
Add the events of Holy Week to your family prayers. For example, you could pray, “God, we remember today how Jesus served his friends by washing their feet. Help us to serve others, too.”
On Easter Sunday, celebrate at home in a big way. Make “Christ is risen!” banners to hang around the house. Have a special food. If fresh flowers — a colorful symbol of new life — are available, bring some in to decorate the spaces where your family gathers. Teach your children the traditional Easter greeting, “Alleluia! Christ is risen!” and the response, “The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!”
Lent- and Easter-related craft ideas can be found on Pinterest and online blogs.
Host an at-home foot washing ceremony on Maundy Thursday using the account of the Lord’s Supper in John 13:1-11. Washing someone else’s feet, especially for children to wash their parents’ feet and each other’s, can be a powerful experience.
Watch the sunrise together on Easter morning (the time of day the Resurrection was discovered).
Remember that Easter is a season.
Create a family worship space. To continue the celebration throughout the Easter season, Gilliam suggested setting up praise space–a table, a corner of the family room, wherever the family can gather. Decorate the space for Easter with symbols of new life — flowers, a budding branch, pictures of butterflies or baby animals (invite children to draw these or cut them out from old magazines), etc. In the days following Easter Sunday, gather there each day as a family to pray together and read a short passage of scripture about the events following the Resurrection.”
Practice kindness and helping others. Write notes or make phone calls to other homebound people in the community. Let them know your family is praying for them. The number of people who could use Easter cheer is almost limitless and the joy of Easter is good news for all.
Hide a chocolate egg. Burrows offered an interesting idea. “When I was a kid,” he said, “one of the coolest things after Easter was to find that one chocolate egg that had gone unnoticed. It was like a little bit of Easter had snuck into the following week.
Consult the Ministry with Children Toolbox of the Michigan Conference for more ideas.