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Easter: How To Share Traditions & Meaning

For many families, Easter is a celebration of spring, renewal, and rebirth. Flowers, the Easter Bunny, eggs—they all symbolize these themes. Explain to your child how the tradition of dyeing eggs goes back to the ancient Egyptians, who believed that eggs symbolized new life.

Celebrate Spring
While the holiday is primarily religious and cultural, many people celebrate Easter as signaling the return of spring. Take a walk with your child and search for baby crocuses, daffodils, and buds on trees. Help him plant a few seeds in a paper cup and watch them grow on an indoor windowsill. Purchase an Easter lily in a pot and watch it bloom.

Religious Meanings
Church services celebrate Christ's resurrection, which is the central focus of the Christian religion. Explain the biblical story of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection in terms your child can understand. Church services, with triumphant music and decorations, can help him grasp the basic religious concept of life's triumph over death. Point out to him that the Easter lily, used to decorate many churches at Easter, is in the actual shape of a trumpet, and that white, the traditional color of Easter, symbolizes purity. Reading a children's Bible or book of religious stories together will tell the account of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection in easy-to-understand language.

Sharing the religious aspects of Easter, as well as the many different ways it’s observed around the world, will enrich your child's understanding of the holiday and its traditions.

Easter Finery
Dressing up in new spring clothes is a tradition in many families, whether they attend church services, an Easter parade, or a festive family meal. Your child's idea of dressing up may or may not always match yours. If at all possible, let him choose what he feels most dressed up in (whether or not it includes the traditional Easter suit or hat). To encourage your child to wear something new, explain to him that wearing clothes is linked to the old belief that the earth also puts on new clothes—plants, leaves, and flowers—to celebrate the arrival of spring.

Easter Baskets
Here are two great Easter baskets, one simple, the other requiring more careful planning:

For a simple basket, cut two 3x5” rectangles from a brown paper grocery bag. Glue or staple the edges together on both short sides and one longer side. Staple a pipe cleaner across the open side or top, to use as a handle. Using an assortment of colored construction paper, cut five 2” long oval-shaped eggs. Have your child color the basket and the eggs with crayon or maker. You can either staple the colored eggs onto the outside of the basket (if you’ll be filling the inside with the real thing), or place the paper eggs inside. Add shreds of green crepe paper to the basket to look like grass.

A more elaborate basket can be made from quart-size milk containers. Cut the carton so it is 2” deep, then cover the outside with colored paper, stapling in place. Your child can color the paper with crayons or makers. Two weeks before Easter, cut a 1” thick kitchen sponge to fit into the bottom of the carton. Using grass seed from your local nursery or birdseed, let your child sprinkle a handful over the sponge. Then give her the task of adding water every day to keep it constantly moist. Set the basket on a sunny windowsill and by Easter, your child will be amazed to find beautiful green grass sprouting in her basket. To add a holiday touch, place a decorated Easter egg or jellybean candy on the grass.

Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education