“Easter is the demonstration of God that life itself is essentially spiritual and timeless.” ~Charles M. Crowe
Easter is about much more than springtime, bunnies, baby chicks, eggs, and pastel colors. The Easter season is the pivotal point of Christianity, commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ and celebrating the hope of eternal life.
Easter was originally a pagan festival celebrating the return of spring and commemorating the goddess of springtime, Eastre. Early Christian holy days coincided with celebrations that already existed. Thus, Easter also celebrates new life by the fact that the Savior lives.
Some Christians call the holiday "Resurrection Day" rather than continuing to refer to the name of the pagan goddess. In many other countries Easter is called "Pascha", which comes from the Hebrew word "Pesach" meaning Passover, because Jesus is God’s Passover lamb. Easter reminds us that Christ died for our sins so that anyone who believes in Him will live forever with God in Heaven.
Just imagine, if Jerusalem had had its own daily newspaper two thousand years ago, Jesus’ resurrection surely would have been headline news! After Jesus was crucified on Good Friday, He rose from the dead on Easter Sunday. The townspeople were probably filled with wonder – and perhaps fear - as rumors and speculation must have abounded. The tomb was empty, His body was missing, and there were reports that Jesus had been seen alive!
Many contemporary scholars agree that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was probably the most thoroughly attested event in ancient history. While there were no witnesses at the tomb who actually viewed the resurrection, Jesus was seen by all of the apostles as well as by more than 500 people afterwards.
Easter was celebrated on different days of the week including Friday, Saturday, and Sunday prior to A.D. 325. In that year, the Roman Emperor Constantine issued a decree stating that Easter would be celebrated on the first Sunday that occurs after the first full moon on or after the first day of Spring. Ever since then, most Christians have observed Easter according to that rule. Consequently, Easter can fall on any Sunday between March 22 and April 25.
Did You Know…?
Easter was not widely celebrated in America until after the Civil War.
There are many religious traditions associated with the celebration of Easter. Easter Sunday follows a period of forty days of penance and sacrifice known as Lent, which begins with Ash Wednesday. Holy Week is the final week of Lent, and Palm Sunday is the first day of Holy Week. Many churches distribute palm leaves on Palm Sunday in remembrance of the palm fronds spread before Christ as he entered the city of Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish Passover. Maundy Thursday commemorates Jesus' last supper with his disciples. Many Christians fast or eat no meat on Good Friday, which was the day that Jesus died. Some churches hold sunrise services outdoors to celebrate Easter Sunday. Passion plays dramatize the Easter story.
The numerous secular traditions of Easter include: Easter eggs, Easter egg trees, Easter baskets, Easter bonnets, Easter parades, Easter brunch, and Easter egg hunts. The custom of exchanging eggs in the springtime was already centuries old when Easter was first celebrated by Christians. Eggs were wrapped in gold leaf if you were wealthy or, if you were a peasant, colored brightly by boiling them with the leaves or petals of certain flowers. In some places, children roll eggs down a long hill. The child whose eggs lasts the longest without cracking, wins.
As with almost all holidays, Easter has become very commercialized. There are plastic eggs, chocolate bunnies and candy galore. The symbols associated with Easter, however, are not necessarily modern fabrications. From earliest times, the egg was a symbol of rebirth in most cultures. The Easter bunny originated with the pagan Easter festival, since it was a rabbit that represented the goddess, Eastre. Lambs link the death of Christ to that of the lamb sacrificed on the first Passover. The cross is the symbol of the crucifixion, as well as the official symbol of Christianity. Easter lilies represent the purity of new life.
By Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)
Spring bursts today,
Easter Mints Kids Can Make
This is a no-cook recipe that children can mix with their hands. Flavor it with any of the liquid flavorings in the supermarket, such as strawberry or lemon. If you want, you can divide it into three portions and add a few drops of food coloring to tint it yellow, red, and green. Then knead a small amount of flavoring into each one. This recipe makes about 1 1/2 lbs of candy.
You will need: 1/3 cup soft butter, 1/3 cup light corn syrup, 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon flavoring, 3 1/2 cup (1 lb.) sifted confectioner's sugar, large bowl, wooden spoon, paper plates, and pencils.
Help the children measure all the ingredients into a large bowl. They can take turns stirring it with the wooden spoon until it becomes too stiff. Then they can knead it with their hands. They should continue kneading until the dough is smooth. Give each child a paper plate and a pencil. Tell them to turn their plates over and write their names on the bottom (to prevent pencil lead from getting on their mints). Give each child a portion of dough on his or her plate. The children can pinch off pieces, roll them into balls, and press them lightly with a fork to make a fancy butter mint. Or the children can make snakes, cut the snakes into pieces, and press the pieces with a fork. Leave the mints on the plates and refrigerate them for 30 minutes, until they become firm. Easter Mints taste even better the second day, if you can keep everyone from eating them all on the first day. Cover with plastic wrap and keep them in the refrigerator.
Bird Nest Cookies
Push a few jelly beans into the center of some fresh-baked coconut macaroons.
According to Spanish tradition, breaking these on someone's head brings good luck! You will need: empty eggshells, markers, paper punch, colored paper, glue, scissors, tissue paper, funnel.
1. Carefully put a small hole in raw eggs. Pour out the insides and rinse the shell with water and let dry.
2. Cut out confetti from colored paper using a paper punch. (You can use old gift wrap or the Sunday comics.)
3. Decorate the eggshells with markers, being very careful not to break the shells.
4. Fill each eggshell with confetti using the funnel. Glue a small piece of tissue paper over the hole and let dry.
5. Now the fun begins. Smash these on your family's heads for loads of luck and Easter fun.
Cut 12 egg shapes from poster board or construction paper. Cut each egg apart in the middle using a pointed zigzag cut. Write a numeral (from 1-12) on each half. On the back of the egg halves, draw a corresponding number of dots that add up to the written numeral. (For example, you would write the number 3 on two adjoining egg halves; on the backs you would draw two dots on one half and one dot on the other.) Mix the halves. Children sort the eggs, finding the matching numerals and counting the dots on the back to check their work.
Make Your Own Natural Easter Egg Dye
Purple: 1 (15 ounce) can sliced beets OR 1/2 cup grape juice concentrate
Arrange a layer of eggs in a pan or pot. Cover the eggs with water. Place one selection (color choice from above) into the pot; bring the water to a rolling boil. While the water is boiling, stir 1 teaspoon of white vinegar into the water. Let the eggs boil for one minute, then remove the pan from the heat. For light pastel-colored eggs, let the eggs sit approximately 3 hours before removing them from the dye and letting them dry. If you would like your eggs a darker hue, transfer the eggs and hot dye into a bowl, then cover and refrigerate until the eggs are the color you desire. (Thanks to Andja Rawlings of Black Canyon City who gave me these instructions last year.)
Easter Egg Hunts
Since our boys enjoy all kinds of treasure and scavenger hunts, our family always likes going on Easter egg hunts. In fact, when Pete and Jon were younger, they would use the colorful plastic Easter eggs to play hide-the-egg all year round! It’s especially fun hunting for eggs in the green grassy backyard at grandma and grandpa’s house, where there are plenty of flowery shrubs, leafy trees, and non-prickly bushes to hide the eggs in. Many families develop their own variations of the traditional Easter egg hunt. Here are some ideas:
Leave a trail of Hershey’s Kisses from your child’s bedroom to his or her Easter basket. (Use a different color Hershey’s Kiss for each child in case the candy trails criss-cross.)
Leave a plastic egg with a clue inside that will lead them to another plastic egg, then to another, and so on, up to about a dozen eggs. The final egg clue will take them to their Easter basket.
Hide plastic Easter eggs with little notes inside, saying what prize has been won. It can be in the form of a poem or just a clue (like “it goes hippety hop”). Buy little items such as candy eggs, stuffed Easter eggs or chocolate bunnies for prizes.
Instead of eggs, you can use post-it notes and write a clue on each one, such as “look inside freezer,” “check in dryer,” “backseat of car,” etc. Or if you have a young spy in the family, you can use secret codes, which may be as simple as scrambling the words (i.e. ERYDR for dryer).
Place one Bible verse inside each plastic egg along with a jelly bean, malted milk ball, chocolate candy, etc. When the child finds an egg, he or she has to read the verse before eating the treat!
Another option would be to place a Bible verse inside each egg that tells part of the Easter Story (e.g., Palm Sunday, the arrest, Good Friday, and finally the resurrection). Once they are all found, have the kids sort them into chronological order.
Enjoy these free printables!
Resurrection Story Scripture Strips
Easter Scripture Strips
A TALE FOR EASTER, by Tasha Tudor.
BENJAMIN'S BOX: A RESURRECTION STORY, by Melody Carlson.
THE BEST THING ABOUT EASTER, by Christine Harder Tangvald.
EASTER FUN ACTIVITY BOOK, by Judith Bauer Stamper.
THE EASTER STORY, by Brian Wildsmith.
THE EGG TREE, by Katherine Milhous.
THE VERY FIRST EASTER, by Paul L. Maier.
THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST (R, 2 hours)
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