Simplifying Easter

By: Mandi Ehman of Organizing Your Way

As with any other holiday, it’s easy to get caught up in commercialism at Easter. In any given store across America, you’ll find large pre-packaged Easter baskets filled with cheap trinkets and candy, fluffy stuffed animals just begging to be taken home and aisles lined with chocolate and marshmallows of all kinds.

In our home, we prefer to take a low-key approach to Easter, focusing more on the historical and religious significance of the day than on the pressure to shower our kids with gifts. Here are a few ideas for focusing your Easter celebrations as well:

Separate the Bunny-Stuff from the Easter-Stuff

I like bunnies and chocolate as much as the next person, and I have wonderful memories of dyeing Easter eggs and going on egg hunts with my family. Rather than turn into an Easter scrooge, we simply separate those things from our Easter celebration. For example, this week we’ll be doing projects focused on spring with our girls, including dyeing eggs, planting grass in little gift baskets and making crushed shell art.

In the days leading up to Easter, we’ll be focused on the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and our crafts and activities will reflect that focus with things such as paper palm leaves, resurrection eggs and crescent roll tombs.

I’ve never quite understood how chocolate bunnies relate to such a significant holiday, but separating the two helps our family find a balance that works for us.

Select Meaningful Easter Basket Items

Rather than heading to your local superstore and picking up a basket of toys that will likely end up broken, lost or set aside after a few days, choose meaningful items to put in your children’s Easter baskets. We always start with a new pair of sunglasses for each of our girls, but your baskets should reflect your children and your family values. The key is to be thoughtful in your selections rather than just filling a basket to keep up with the Joneses.

Here are some more ideas:

:: Pretty stationery and pencils

:: A special necklace or bracelet

:: A family game

:: A travel or nature journal

:: A sketchbook

:: Crayon roll or art supplies

Create Family Traditions

Most importantly, take the time to thoughtfully plan family traditions that will become part of your family’s fabric over the years. Whether these include making breakfast together on Easter morning, having an early-morning egg hunt or reading the story of the resurrection while curled up together in bed, your children are sure to remember them for years to come!

Mandi Ehman is a work-at-home mom to four spunky little girls. She believes that organizing only lasts if you do it your way – to fit your needs, your preferences and your lifestyle – and she shares organizing and time management tips at Organizing Your Way.

  • Kristy Bagley

    I love it! I was thinking the other day what in the world does a bunny have to do with Jesus Christ dieing on the cross. But then I started thinking well what can I do besides get a lot of junk? Thanks for the ideas and remembering the real reasons for the season and all Christian holidays.

  • Lillian

    As each holiday passes that my little ones ar understanding more, I’m realizing so much how the holidays {at least when they’re this small} really are shaped by what we teach them and show them. My mother-in-law asked me last week if it was alright for her to give them a bit of candy for Easter and, at first, it made me feel like she thought I was a fun-killer. But I realized that it was really just her respect for how we want to raise our kids and I truly appreciated that. I don’t want them to see the holidays as just reasons for presents and treats, but I do want them to enjoy a bit in conjunction with a larger celebration! Love your suggestions – definitely going to keep them in my mind as I think of how we’ll celebrate:) I especially love the suggestion to separate the “spring/bunny” stuff from the Easter celebration.

  • Bekki

    We have never done anything “Easter”. If fact we don’t even call the most important event in the Christian calendar by its pagan name. We celebrate Ressurection Day. Our children only get a small chocolate cross and a new outfit. This is my oldests son’s(8) favorite day of the year. My husband decided to celebrate this way before we ever had children so it has made it easy for us.

    As for all the commerical stuff, we celebrate May Day on May first and make flower baskets for the neighbors and then we give our children a basket of goodies. It’s completely seperated and no one feels left out of anything some times we will have an egg hunt then too.

    It’s nice to know that when my children wake up on resurrescion day thier first thoughts ae not about what’s in their basket.

  • Nanny Badura

    I remember as a child my brother and I had great fun dying eggs. The eggs represented the new birth we have when we give our hearts to Jesus who died on the cross for our sins. I don’t know how the Easter bunny fit in, but we sure enjoyed the chocolate.

  • Amy

    We have run the gamut at our house with regard to how we observe Easter. When we were first married, we were extremely committed to only very symbolic items – a new plant, representing our new life in Christ, or jelly beans with colors that corresponded to those in the “wordless books” that tell the Gospel story. However, since becoming Anglican and embracing a more liturgical way of following the church calendar, we’ve realized that for us, Easter is an enormous feast, celebration, party, etc that follows up the solemnity of Lent with the joy of the Resurrection Day. So, we are mindful of that as we fill baskets with chocolates and other goodies. It isn’t what you do, or what you put in a basket, but the meaning behind it. PS – We have also done brand new Bibles when our children were at an age for them.

  • Heidi

    This has become a very important topic for us lately. We want our children to know the meaning of Easter or Resurrection Day and not just think of egg hunts and candy. The hardest part is that the family traditions (both sides of the family) don’t leave much room for variation without causing hurt feelings. So this year we are planning a big family dinner on Saturday night that will include an interactive telling of the Resurrection story…similar to a Jewish Passover Seder. We hope this will become a lasting tradition for our family and a good way to teach our children.

  • Jackie

    We have started the tradition that our daughter gets a new kite each Easter. It’s something that we can all do together. She looks forward to it each year. I also like to add gardening things, seeds, gloves, shovels etc. She loves to garden and it’s a big part of our life in the Spring.

  • Tracy

    We have done something like your crescent roll tombs except for we use our homemade baking powder biscuit recipe. Just form it around the marshmallow and pinch it shut. Much easier and cheeper to create. They are very yummy. Thanks for the ideas!

  • Kara

    I love your list of simple, meaningful things to put in an Easter basket! You’re so right: thoughtful selections will mean more than something purchased just to make a big basket, or because its on the shelf in the Easter section of the store. Yes, candy is nice sometimes but that isn’t what Easter is about.

    Terrific article!

  • Cho

    In my country the most traditional thing of Easter is all the food! No rabbits and eggs in Africa yet. But we get to have holidays and watch ‘Jesus movies.’ There’s a series out that I’m set to get for the family- an Easter preparation and teaching tool “The Liturgy Series.”

    I’m sure it would be great for a film show in church as well.

  • Mandi @ Organizing Your Way

    I love all of these ideas. Because my girls are young, we’re still figuring out exactly what it will look like for us, but this is the first year I’ve felt really good about our decisions and not like I was compromising our values.

    Bekki, I love your idea for your May Day celebration!

    Heidi & Lillian, I know exactly what you mean. Sometimes I do think our family regards me as a scrooge, but I have found that explaining some of our decisions waaaaaay ahead of time with lots of kindness and understanding makes a big difference. We actually sent an email before Christmas to all of the grandparents asking them to limit gifts (because with 4 under 5 and 3 sets of grandparents, it quickly gets out of hand) and they received it really well!

    Jackie, a kite is such a fun idea!

    Tracy, that’s a great idea to make your own. We actually usually do make them on Easter morning, and I’ll admit that I like the convenience of the crescent rolls when we’re trying to get everybody ready and out the door!

  • Chris

    Wonderful ideas! We’ve always tried to have a mix of meaningful items along with candy for Easter. Regarding the bunnies: bunnies, like lambs, tulips, daffodils, lillies and eggs, all are symbolic of “new life”…the new life that Christ offers us!

  • Debbie

    Easter is a tricky one for me. I appreciate your insight.

    I was actually born on Easter Sunday, and have always collected bunnies.

    This will be our 3rd Easter w/ little ones. My daughter got a doll last yr because her little sister was due to arrive in a couple weeks. They are both getting dolls this yr. as well. I got a good deal on a doll and accesories set but I don’t want to give it all to my almost 1 yr old for her bday, so easter came in handy. If almost 1 y/o is getting a doll, I am making my lfe easier and 2 y/o is getting a doll too.
    I am considering making this a tradition for a while actually. And incorporating ideas about God giving up his child and new life in Christ. Kind of something I have fallen into I guess.

    Also their dolls are the only thing they will get in their basket. I don’t even put that grass stuff in it. Though I love the idea of planting grass in the baskets! Maybe next yr…

  • Johanne

    Easter originally come from a pagan celebration of spring/renewal/new life, and “Easter” was the pagan goddess of fertility. Bunnies and eggs were used as symbols because bunnies have huge litters – thus they represent fertility – and eggs because, well, they are a new life. :) They would also paint these eggs in bright colour, because that represented the vibrant colours of spring! So you’re not too far off in including these in your spring celebrations! :)

    How it came to be associated with Christian “Easter” (Resurrection) comes from the fact that, like many other instances in early Christianity, some pagan symbolism were included in the discourses of the Gospels so that they would make more sense to the pagans – one can think of the Celtic crosses as an example of this: the circle symbolizing the sun was included on the cross. This way, it was not too much of a drastic break from their century-long traditions, and the pagans were more opened to the Good News, understood it better. In fact, it is not even sure that Christ was crucified and resurrected in the “spring” (just like it is thought that he was actually born in the spring, not December) – sometimes it made sense to early Christians to combine the new holidays with old ones!

    I learned about the relation to Eater & bunnies in a Bible study book – certainly interesting stuff! :) I had also always wondered!!

  • Johanne

    (quick P.S. I was also wondering how to negotiate the commercial Easter with the religious one. I guess that now knowing the origin of the symbols and their meaning reconciles me a bit with the matter. Christ was resurrected on Easter (or, well, the Holiday represents that moment), so symbols of life are not too far off! This being said, I won’t start buying massive bunnies and chocolate (that, I don’t know where it comes from… hmm, good question!), but I think a small bunny gift or egg hunt is ok with me… I’m making DD (21 mo) a crochet bunny basket, into which I’ll put her new bath washcloth – shaped as a bunny. lol Should I mention she just so happens to be obsessed with bunnies? ;)