by Melissa Taft
When my two kids were little, I found myself living in a strange sort of tension around Easter. On the one hand, I did not want to ever take the focus away from the ‘reason for the season’ – Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection. I wanted that to always be paramount. On the other hand, I am someone with a love language of gifts, an appreciation of tradition, and a desire for my kids to not feel bitterly deprived of fun and rituals around silly or fairy tale traditions. I had grown up with fun and traditions as a firm part of my family heritage, and so I didn’t want to give up altogether on the Easter Bunny. Strange as that may seem, I was concerned that tipping too far one way or another would end up backfiring. I wanted to find some balance. I just personally felt joy in the coloring of eggs and the giving of baskets, and wanted to pass on the fun to my kids.
Yet I was dissatisfied with the idea of celebrating two Easters – a secular and a sacred. To me, the sacred must be paramount, but how could it compete for affection with the allure of chocolate treats and a bunny bearing gifts? Wrestling with that same tension, Christine has put together a resource list for celebrating Holy Week with Kids and another resource list for celebrating Lent and Easter with Kids that have a wide range of ideas, posts, resources, and inspiration.
For my own family, I began to notice the ways I was already using secular symbols or rituals to point to the sacred. Gifts were already a spiritual practice in our home, and I already felt quite confident about our Advent/Christmas season being a blend in ways that maintained the focus I wanted. Nature afforded ample examples of the fingerprints of God and ways to know Him. Scripture was already brought into ‘everyday’ situations. So I set about dreaming and praying about how to make that happen, and an Easter basket tradition was born.
I took the traditional secular symbols of Easter and looked for how they represented the sacred. Even the Easter Bunny has stood in for some spiritual principle or a Bible verse over the years – from God giving good gifts to His children to delighting in creation to celebrating creativity and imagination and more. I used eggs to represent the Trinity, new life in Christ, spiritual and creation renewal, environmental care, and more. Even the candy had an idea or a verse tied to it – the easiest one being “taste and see that the Lord is good!” – Psalm 34:8 For example, one year I used various Easter/nature symbols to illustrate the transformative power of the resurrection. Instead of a typical basket, I used flower pots to hold the treasures which included wooden butterfly stages toys I’d bought handmade and actual butterflies to add to a butterfly habitat we had. Well, the caterpillar form anyways! Flower seeds to represent growth and transformation as well, an egg I’d made to add to their kitchen toy collection to represent the trinity, a headband with a lamb to represent the lamb of God and how that sacrifice covers our sins, a wordless book I’d made, and other treasures.
This also gave me some opportunities to think outside the box with the baskets and revelries, and to do my best to honor my own buying principles. Instead of heaps of candy, I often opted for a few quality pieces that were fair-trade and ecologically conscious – or at the very least, limited to one type of ‘regular’ candy. I found baskets on my local Buy Nothing group that I reused – when I wasn’t being clever with the ‘basket’ that is. I bought shredded paper that I reused instead of the plastic grass. I even found some biodegradable Easter Eggs! Sometimes items were thrifted. I had a lot of fun over the years coming up with themes and finding items that my kids would use and enjoy but did not betray my principles and illustrated the sacred.
As they grew, the themes matured as well. One year it was all about the armor of God – new needed boots to represent the feet shod with the Gospel of Peace, vintage second-hand bought hats to wear on Easter and other occasions to represent the helmet of salvation, special necklaces to represent the breastplate of righteousness, etc. The top photo’s theme included tools for Christian life, and the baskets themselves were sturdy fair-trade market totes. Another year we were going on a long trip via plane, train, and automobiles and they needed luggage so I used Easter as a chance to budget travel items we needed in and made the theme about taking God with you wherever you go, as He is already there. One year it was new umbrellas (His Banner over Me Is Love/Protected Under His Wings) filled with other promises and admonitions – bubbles to represent the Holy Spirit, a duck given via World Vision to represent feeding the hungry, fishy crackers since we are to be fishers of men, and more.
Whether a can of food, a pair of shoes, or even the Easter Bunny – it is possible to point the way to Christ. The secular is but a thin veil to the sacred. I hoped to encourage my children to love not only in words but also in deeds, and to see that Easter belongs to Jesus. Just as everything in creation does.
Join Christine Sine, Tom Sine, and others for Inhabit 2022 on April 29-30th in Seattle- a live conference by Parish Collective. Explore stories of hope and be encouraged to be the church in your neighborhood. You are not alone – the everyday realities are carried by us all. Click here for more info!