Easter is the holiday that sneaks up on us and finds us unprepared.
Why does it happen every year?
Here are a few reasons that might help put it all in perspective.
- While Christmas has nearly six months of anticipation–decorative and gift items start appearing in stores in late summer—Easter gets little advance marketing support from the retail world.
- Making Christmas meaningful and memorable for families is easier because schools close for two or more weeks. In contrast, our children might get Good Friday off from school (but not everywhere).
- The date of Easter changes every year, making it more challenging to remember and plan ahead. How often have you asked, “When is Easter this year?”
- And then there’s money. Too many of us spend a lot of money on Christmas—traveling to visit family, buying big gifts, perhaps even taking a ski trip. We don’t budget money for Easter like we do for Christmas.
To help you rethink this imbalance, here are some questions to consider:
Do we over-celebrate Christmas and, as a result, have too little energy, desire, or emotion left for the most important holiday of the year?
Do we take a minimalist approach to celebrating the greatest event of history? Have you ever considered that we ignore what Jesus commanded us to do–remember His death (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)? He never asked us to commemorate His birth.
Does the emphasis on Christmas far surpass what you do for Easter in your house? It certainly did in mine for most of my adult life. Like many, I didn’t really know how to celebrate Easter. I needed a vision for how to make much of this important holiday.
So I want to challenge you to rethink this holiday with me. Ask God to help you rightly balance your attention to His greatest miracle, Easter, with some of the same attention you give to celebrating His birth.
I invite you this year to become Easter people for whom the cross is everything!
Start today to think about what kind of Easter celebration you want to plan for your family.
Do you want something cozy and intimate with your nuclear family?
Do you want a larger Easter lunch or dinner with your extended family?
Do you want to go all out and plan something big with friends and neighbors, or with your church?
If you decide on a group celebration, start talking to friends who might want to join you and find a partner with whom to share the work and joy. Will you want to include a grand lunch or dinner feast? Begin now to think about the location, menu, decorations, and responsibilities.
Plan meaningful decorations for your home. Most decorations you’ll find in stores focus on eggs, bunnies, and baby chicks, but none of these directly tie into the Resurrection.
So here are some ideas to help you plan for a meaningful celebration this year. I’ve also included a number of links to helpful resources. You might want to print this list and mark the ideas you want to try and then mark your calendar with deadlines and to-dos for making it happen.
1. Create anticipation with a countdown to Easter. Help your kids make a traditional numbered paper chain. They can tear off one paper loop each day. Let them each hang one in their room. Or get our Behold the Lamb Kids Lent Countdown, a digital download activity kids will love.
2. Hang our new I AM calendar in your house. These beautiful images of the names of Jesus—like “I AM the Bread of Life” or “I AM the Lion of Judah”—can adorn your home during the Easter season and even all year long. (Images fit in standard 11×14 size frames.) Look for this calendar in our Etsy store.
3. Organize a church or neighborhood egg hunt, using Resurrection Eggs from FamilyLife. This best-selling resource is a great tool to explain the true meaning of Easter. Kids as young as three or four can begin to remember what all the tiny pieces in the eggs mean.
4. Plan to help your kids reenact the Palm Sunday story or the Good Friday story. Read aloud the story in John 12 and John 18-20. Encourage them to create costumes and even the scene if you have the space.
5. Invite your friends over for a DIY craft night to make these Easter candles. Use them as décor on your kitchen or dining room table to use during Holy Week. If you can find a piece of old fencing or barn wood, write “He is Risen” in white paint on the board and display it on a fireplace mantle.
6. Observe Passover. This traditional Jewish event celebrates God passing over Jewish homes when He punished the nation of Egypt by enslaving His people. For followers of Christ it also prefigures Jesus’ passing over our sins through His death and Resurrection. This was a significant part of Holy Week; what we call the “Last Supper” was a Passover meal.
This year Jewish Passover is on April 5-12. For recipes, a dinner guide, and activities, click here.
7. Watch the Jesus film. Dear friends of ours, Tim and Darcy Kimmel, watch the movie on the day before Easter and take communion together as a family. Watching the story of Jesus every year will make Easter far more meaningful. You can watch it here.
8. Observe Holy Week. Starting on Palm Sunday, I will be posting blog posts every day during Holy Week that your family can use for devotions. Light your pre-decorated candles as you read the stories.
9. Attend your church’s Good Friday services. At home either before or after church, talk about Jesus’ death on the cross by reading the story in one of the four Gospels. Tear a handmade curtain or a length of muslin fabric to explain the ripping of the veil in the temple. At noon, close all your curtains and blinds to make your house dark. This is the hour when the earth went dark. Leave your house dark until Sunday morning to further the impact. Then on Easter Sunday to symbolize Jesus rising from the dead, serve Tomb Cake, or make special pancakes to illustrate the empty tomb.
10. Send an Easter care package. If there’s someone you’d love to spend Easter with but distance keeps you apart, drop a meaningful gift in the mail to them.
11. Include truth-telling gifts in your children’s Easter baskets. Look in our Etsy store or a local Christian bookstore for gifts that speak to the truth of Easter.
12. Prepare a special feast. Find an Easter menu online or ask friends for ideas. One of our favorites for our Easter meal is Spring Salad. Here’s the recipe if you’d like to add it to your menu.
Then create a grand tablescape for your feast in a gold and white color scheme. (Look for an example in this video.) Gold reminds us of our victorious King and white represents the purity of His perfect life and the purity that will be ours one day.
Your décor doesn’t have to be expensive. Set the DIY candles on blocks of wood to create varying heights. Fill mason jars with white roses, white hydrangeas, or even baby’s breath. If the weather is glorious, eat outside with gold-rimmed paper plates, gold plastic silverware, paper cups. We even found gold-striped paper straws for our photo shoot. A backyard picnic setup gives the kids space to play when the feasting is over.
13. Don’t leave too much work for Holy Week.
Plan ahead and create “to-do” lists so that you’re not swamped with work the last few days before Easter Sunday. Decide what clothes you and your family will wear, and purchase any new clothes a couple weeks ahead of time. Plan your meal and prepare any food that could be frozen.
14. Prepare your heart, too. Don’t just plan the event, but ready your heart as well. I suggest reading one or more of these wonderful books in the weeks leading to Easter to help you ponder the uncomfortable truths of Jesus’ death and burial:
- Word in the Wilderness, by Malcolm Guite
- The Passion of Jesus Christ, by John Piper
- Shaped by the Cross, by Ken Gire
- 40 Days of Decrease, by Alicia Britt Chole
- A Violent Grace, by Michael Card
- Reliving the Passion, by Walter Wangerin, Jr.
- Tempted and Tried, by Russell Moore
Allow yourself to feel just a hint of His agony, His suffering, His pain. Walk away from the cross with the disciples who were shocked at His death, whose hopes were dashed, whose fears were crippling; their despair and depression deep and debilitating.
This is very good for your faith! Don’t rush past thinking about what Jesus did for you.
Then you will be ready for Sunday’s dawn. Then your joy on Resurrection Day will begin to match the disciples. Then the world will know that you have been with Jesus. That your life has been changed forever.
Christ is risen!
What do you do for Easter? What does your church do? We’d love to hear from you … just leave a comment at the end of this post.