Well, folks, here's another mommy blogging moment brought to you by me!
For Easter we celebrated with these:
And with these:
But we mostly celebrated with this:
"What is that monstrosity?!?!" Is that what I hear you asking? Well, that, my friends, is The Easter Tree.
For a long time I've been trying to figure out some way to make Easter and Christmas work together a little better. Maybe it's because I'm secretly jealous of Lent (I really do think it's a neat idea!) or maybe it's because I hate the commercialism of Easter and a bunny pooping chocolate eggs never really made sense to me anyway. Either way, I have always wanted to focus on Jesus at Easter but it was hard to do it in an age appropriate way for my children--especially when they are so excited about Easter egg hunts and candy and presents. Last year, in the midst of our move I came across something called a Jesse Tree and then I came across this Easter Egg Tree over at sugardoodle. It was kismet. An Easter Egg Tree that involved advent type scripture reading was exactly what I was looking for. It was the perfect way to connect all the ways we think about Jesus at Christmas with the Easter season.
So this year I took some old wrapping paper tubes, cut a cardboard box into strips, and taped it into some sort of tree shape with a bunch of masking tape. Then I took our old plastic Easter eggs and hung them from the branches with lots of color of ribbons. To make them hang I used my kitchen scissors to poke holes in the top of the egg and threaded some ribbon through, tying a knot on the inside of the egg to keep it from slipping out. I'm clumsy and cut myself a few times but I bet most of you folks are way more crafty than me and could do it without injuring yourself. My kiddos actually helped in the construction of the whole thing; it was pretty fun.
After we got the whole thing put together I started looking through The Friend Archives for some sort of scripture activity to put in the eggs. (BTW, if you aren't using friend.lds.org to find church oriented activities for your kids then you are missing out. It is a great resource.) There were a lot of choices but I ended up settling on the Easter ABC Fill-In activity from the April 1996 Friend. I chose this one because the scripture references would be good practice for Princess N (my oldest) in looking up scriptures, and Supergirl E and Mr. J are both in various stages of linking letters with the sounds they make and this helped them listen to the scripture. I also put a jelly bean for each kid in each egg.
Every evening after dinner we'd gather round the Easter tree and open up an egg. We'd talk about what letter we were on and what sound it made, then we'd look up the scripture and remind the kids to listen for the sound of that day's letter. They'd munch their jellybeans while we read and then fill in the blanks. I think it was pretty successful as far as family scripture study goes.
We did have arguing some nights over who got what color jellybean and whose turn it was to open the egg. We also ran into a little trouble with kids knocking eggs open unintentionally. And of course, the Little Cannoli (who is now crawling) had to be constantly monitored to make sure she didn't ingest some of the dry beans from the tree's pot. Mr. J spent a lot of time tying the eggs together and then his sisters would walk by and untie the eggs. Also, Supergirl E decided one day that there was a tsunami in the house (she'd been watching the news with her dad) and put her Littlest Pets in all the eggs--using extra tape to keep them extra safe. That took a little time to clean up. Still, though, these problems felt minimal considering the time we spent in the scriptures and the good spirit that entered our home because of that. And, really, those problems were tiny compared to issues we've had in the past with Christmas trees!
So, the grand finale came Easter morning. When the kids went to bed they opened the last egg, ate the jellybeans, and said, "So this is it?" I smiled and hinted that maybe something special would happen to the tree while they were asleep. When the woke up this is what they found:
I wanted the tree to go from looking dead to coming alive--that way they would connect the season with the true meaning of Easter. I also opened all the eggs and sprinkled some candy underneath to represent the joy of the stone being rolled away and the tomb being empty. I put the picture of Christ with an image of this scripture poster under the tree. The kids and I talked about the scripture and what happened Easter morning. We talked about the range of emotions Mary went through and how we might feel some of the same things in our lives, but because of Jesus' atonement, crucifixion, and resurrection we can be healed and happy. It was a powerful moment for me and I think my kids could feel the Spirit too.
I'm excited for next Easter and all the possibilities of the Easter tree. The Easter bunny didn't even come up this year and I think I'll keep it that way in the future. I liked moving away from the commercialism and moving closer to Christ. Rather than trying to paint leaves I think next year I'm going to do Jell-O popcorn balls (you know, "I looked out the window and what did I see?") and flowers. And for the scriptures I think I'm going to use the topical guide entry about the names of Christ. I'm also going to try and find something more robust for the tree.
Anyway, I hope you all had a happy Easter and experienced some of the joy that can be found in and through Christ! Tell me, what do you do to celebrate Easter? How do you teach your kids about the true meaning?