This Interpreter Magazine feature offers ideas for families to observe Holy Week and Easter at home .
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, shared several 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.
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 – as well as at church – 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!”
Other ideas include:
- Give up technology (TV, cell phones, Internet) for a period of time and spend that time as a family engaged in community service. (This is another way to teach children about fasting.)
- Use an age-appropriate Lenten Bible study or read The Legend of the Easter Egg (Zondervan) by Lori Walburg.
- Plant seeds (marigold, petunia or grass seeds) in an eggshell carton filled with dirt; sprouting seeds send a clear message to children of the power of new life.
- Check Pinterest and online blogs for Lent- and Easter-related craft ideas.
- 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) before going to church.
Read more about explaining the theology of Holy Week to children and keeping the spirit of rebirth alive after Easter is over.