With trust in his eyes, a sparkle in his smile, and his chubby fingers wrapped around my own, my little guy gazed up at me. The innocence in his face made it clear, all those years ago, that what that wide-eyed, sweet, curious child believed about Jesus began with me. I could teach him to glorify God with a Christ-centered Easter or something else…
Three Ingredients for a Christ-centered Easter
#1. Whatever you do, let it point to Christ.
Jesus is in everything. The Creator of the universe is in every speck of His creation. So there are no limits to the ways you can talk about, study, see and celebrate Christ at Easter. Whatever traditions, activities, and celebrations you decide to do this Easter, the goal is to point your children to Jesus.
#2. Make it memorable.
Jesus sticks with us through our experiences. Your children will remember what touches their hearts. What a powerful notion. When you make fun, make memories, and make a lasting impression on them at Easter time about the love of Jesus, it will penetrate their hearts where we want it to stay. Let the day (week) be fun and easy.
#3. Connect as a family.
The most effective parenting tool you have to influence your children is the relationship you have with them. Creating a Christ-centered Easter should serve as an opportunity to pursue Jesus as a family. As your children see your genuine love of the Savior modeled for them paired with your sincere love for them, they’ll be poised to internalize the depth of meaning in Easter. Celebrating the resurrection is a family affair.
A Christ-Centered Easter in One Week
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is at the heart of Christian Easter celebrations. Resurrection Sunday is the day we pause, give careful consideration, and soak up the reality of what Jesus coming back to life means for our eternity. And though that one day is extraordinary, cultivating a Christ-centered Easter should begin beforehand.
Teaching your children about Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the days leading up to His death and resurrection gives our children a setting and frame of reference to understand.
“How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding…” Proverbs 16:16
These days should not be complicated or complex lessons. They should be simple, relatable, and memorable.
Make Jesus’ life real to them.
Eight Sacred Days to a Christ-Centered Easter.
Day One (Palm Sunday): Jesus rode in on a donkey.
This is one of the few places in scripture you’ll see Jesus outwardly displaying his Kingship. His ride into Jerusalem fulfilled the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9.
Read: Mark 11:1-10
Activity: Let children take turns being Jesus as they ride a bike (or scooter etc.) through waving palm branches.
Use whatever you’d like as palm branches. Teach them the words of Hosanna from the scripture. “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the lord. Hosanna in the highest!” Sing it together as a song.
Big kids and teens can participate by waving branches, helping smaller children, and singing. Remember, include the whole family.
Day Two (Monday): Jesus cleansed the temple.
Jesus was a stoic and peaceful man. When he entered the temple and witnessed the disrespect of his Father’s house, he would not tolerate it. Beautifully demonstrating what righteous anger looks like.
Read: Mark 11:11-17
Activity: Practice boldness.
Instruct children to proclaim, “My God is worthy!” in a powerful voice while placing one hand on a hip and one hand in the air.
Day Three (Tuesday): Jesus tells parables.
The two sons, the tenants, the wedding feast, and more. Jesus spoke in parables a lot. As a lover of word pictures and metaphors, I can appreciate this. Some parables are easier to understand than others. Choose a parable or two to read from the passages below.
Read: Matthew 21:28-25:30 (as you see fit)
Activity: Coach your children in coming up with their own parable, metaphor, or simile.
Ask younger children what one thing reminds them of. Example: This soft teddy bear is like a friend who is always here for playtime.
Day Four (Wednesday): The Passover meal and institution of the Lord Supper.
Jesus ate the traditional Passover meal with his disciples just days before his death. He instructed them to drink the wine in remembrance of his blood and to eat the broken bread in remembrance of his body. This was odd to them at the time because they still did not understand the fullness of what was to come.
A believer’s heart should be in a posture of repentance upon partaking in communion (which is a modern-day observance of the last supper.) In our home, all our children have prayed a prayer of repentance and been baptized. They all fully understand what the Lord’s Supper represents. So we take communion together.
Read: Matthew 26:17-29.
Activity: Bake bread together.
You can use a fantastic simple recipe like this one, or buy some rolls from the store to bake as a family. Talk about how Jesus is the bread of life. Pray and take communion if you like. However, many families also choose to take communion on (Easter) Resurrection Sunday as well.
Day Five (Thursday): Jesus suffers terribly.
Be conscientious here to not scare your children or give them more information than their hearts and minds are ready for.
For small children, focus on how Jesus took all the most severe consequences of our mistakes, wiping away all that separates us from God. For older children and teens, use this opportunity to go a bit deeper. Helping them understand the horrible suffering Jesus endured from the garden to the cross.
Read: Mark 14:32-15-20.
Activity: Take it to the cross.
Have children write down one mistake they’ve made in their lives that they regret. Instruct them to pray a prayer of repentance for that thing. (This would also be a GREAT time to lead them in a prayer of salvation if they’ve never given their heart to Christ.) Then lead them to take the pieces of paper to the cross (use a fireplace or make-believe altar), where they can be ripped up or burned as though they never existed.
Explain that when Jesus died, he took all of our sins with him if we believe.
Day Six (Friday): Good Friday.
(Though we observe the death of Jesus on Good Friday, there is some dispute among theologians on the actual timeframe. Don’t get too caught up in that right now. What’s most important is keeping the focus on Jesus.)
Jesus went to the cross. He chose to die for you, for me, and for our children. Jesus made a choice.
He was fully human and fully God. He felt the fear and dread that came with what he had to do. Yet, in his final moments, he selflessly prayed for God to forgive those who wrongly accused Him. Evidence of an unconditionally loving God.
After his death, the scripture tells of an event experienced by those around. The temple’s curtain was torn in two, the earth shook, rocks split open, and dead saints were raised from the dead.
Can you imagine?
Read: Mark 15:21-39
Activity Option 1: Do a scavenger hunt.
Do a scavenger hunt for things that come back to life, such as seeds, moth cocoon or a butterfly chrysalis, pine cones, dormant flower plants, etc. You can also do a simple scavenger hunt, for instance, like this one.
Activity Option 2: Recreate the scene from Matthew 27:51-54.
Have fun with this.
Day Seven (Saturday): The people mourned.
Jesus had died, and his followers were confused. They thought he was the messiah, but because they didn’t understand the truth of Savior and king he was, they couldn’t look beyond his earthly death.
Read: Matthew 27:57-66
Activity: Dress up in biblical mourning clothes.
The scripture often describes “sackcloth” in passages of mourning. True sackcloth was made of goat hair. Don’t worry, no need to find a goat! For our purposes, just let the kids tell you what they think mourning clothes would have been like and create and wear that outfit for the day.
Day Eight (Easter Sunday): Jesus is Risen.
The tomb is empty.
His body was not there. It has never been found. It will never be found, for Jesus sits on the throne at the right hand of the Father.
Read: Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, or John 20.
I like to read all of these accounts on Resurrection Sunday. They each give a bit of detail that the others don’t.
Activity: Participate in the Empty Tomb listed below in Easter Basket Alternatives.
Should We Celebrate the Bunny
To bunny or not to bunny.
Over the years, as we’ve prayed about what fairy tales to allow space for in the children’s lives, I’ve generally approached it by asking myself these three questions:
Am I telling them to believe in something unseen?
Does that thing hold power(s)?
Is it true on any level?
The Easter Bunny is seen and can easily be refuted, has no powers, and is completely untrue.
In the end, the only hesitation I’d have about allowing the Easter bunny to be part of our Easter is that it distracts from Christ. With a dedicated family committed to Jesus, who studies and worships him daily, the bunny probably won’t cause any problems, although we do not celebrate Easter with the bunny.
Let’s take a brief detour and use Santa Claus as a second example in the interest of clarity.
Santa is mostly invisible as he lives hidden at the North Pole, has the power to see every single thing you do, and delivers or withholds gifts (blessings) as a result.
Most agree that Santa Claus’s character was derived from Saint Nicholas, who was a real person.
Unseen, powerful, and real.
That description sounds quite familiar to how we describe God to our kiddos, doesn’t it?
We did not/do not celebrate Santa in our home. We learn about Saint Nicholas and all the good he did, but the only unseen, powerful, 100% real blessing-giver whom we will celebrate is the Lord Jesus Christ.
Many believers choose to celebrate or participate in holiday fairy tales with their children. I believe each of us has the liberty to make that decision. My one word of caution would be, please don’t base your decision on societal norms or pressures. Spend intentional time in prayer and follow the direction and discernment of the Holy Spirit.
Alright, let’s get back on track with our Christ-centered Easter.
Easter Basket Alternatives
The Easter Morning Empty Tomb for a Christ-centered Easter
Our favorite Christ-centered Easter basket alternative is by far the Empty Tomb!
My husband started making the Empty Tomb a handful of years ago when I wanted something special to drive home the truth that the real gift of Easter is the fact the tomb is indeed empty.
I told him I wished we could fill a tomb with a few pieces of candy and a gift so that when they emptied it, we could provide a visual demonstration of an empty tomb.
Here is a picture of our empty tomb. Made with cardboard, camo spray paint, grass, moss, and a rock for the front.
The Empty Tomb is a huge hit at our house!
Resurrection Eggs are a great way to further commit to memory the story of Easter. Use these in place of eggs with candy OR in addition to the candy eggs during an egg hunt. The Resurrection Eggs can serve as the “special” “prize” eggs that come with a special gift.
A Fancy New Outfit
Consider using Easter as an opportunity to buy the kids one adorable dress or suit that can be used for special events the rest of the year. Most of us will do this anyway, and it’ll likely go over better with girls than boys. But it’s a great idea to consider.
Family Movie Night Kit
Create a movie night kit to give your children in place of an Easter Basket. Get a sizeable reusable popcorn tub like this and place a movie, popcorn balls, skittles, chocolate, junior mints, and all your other favorite candies inside. Set a date and enjoy an at-home family movie night.
Family Game Night Kit
Create a Family Game Night Kit the same way you would the Family Movie Night Kit, but use a board or a card game like this or this as the centerpiece. Add candy, paper and pencils, drawing supplies, and anything else you’d like.
I don’t want to spend too much time on Easter Basket Alternatives. If you don’t like the idea of Easter Baskets, the alternatives are endless.
The point here is to point everything you do choose to celebrate with toward Christ.
Making your basket alternatives family-focused is a great way to do that.
Jesus loves family.
One last note on Easter Baskets… you do not have to give your child all the Easter candy. I repeat you are not a bad mom if you give your child only a few pieces of candy! Whatever you decide to do for Easter Baskets, a bit of candy is plenty.
Remember This About Your Christ-centered Easter
Above all, a child’s relationship with his parents is the first glimpse they have of God’s love. The Father/Child dynamic is a beautiful representation of the Divine Creator and His creation.
It’s crucial to nurture an atmosphere of togetherness, teamwork, and peace at home. Connect with your children in a meaningful way.
Cultivate a Christ-centered Easter for your children by 1) pointing everything to Jesus, 2) then making it memorable, and finally, 3) connecting as a family.
We decided years ago to give our children wisdom and understanding of why Easter is so important to the Christian faith.
With a teenager in the house and two more close behind, I can breathe a sigh of relief and be grateful we decided well. Teaching him to glorify God with a Christ-centered Easter instead of teaching him to celebrate a man dressed as a freakishly-large rabbit, has paid off dividends in the hearts of my children.