“Christ is risen, alleluia!” Plan to kick off a fifty-day celebration of the Resurrection with traditional Easter games for kids, Easter breads, and an Easter table blessing (we’ve got links). You might also plan to change up your prayer table (we’re wearing white now), read the daily Resurrection narratives, make an Easter plan, plant an Easter garden, and have fish for breakfast on Friday. Plus, in The Grace: Why we tell our kids the stories of the martyrs.
That and a lot more is in The Bread, your family faith formation planner for the coming week. Subscribe to get it in your inbox each Friday.
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Sunday, April 5
Read and reflect on the Sunday Scriptures [ages 3+]
You can also give your kids a heads-up about what to expect at the Easter Mass:
- We’re singing the alleluia again, after “burying” the alleluia for the forty days of Lent.
- We’re ringing bells again (if your church has any).
- The Sequence, an ancient liturgical hymn, is sung before the proclamation of the Gospel.
- Instead of the profession of faith (“I believe…”), we’re renewing our baptismal promises and being sprinkled with the waters of baptism.
You can find out more about the Easter Sunday liturgy at Catholic Culture.
“This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible,
not to all the people, but to us,
the witnesses chosen by God in advance,
who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.”
Brothers and sisters:
If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
On the first day of the week,
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
Talking Points: Easter and the Empty Grave
Here are some thoughts and questions to spark conversation with your kids:
- Did you know that the Resurrection is such an important event, the Church celebrates it for fifty days? That is longer than any other liturgical season! You can show your kids the official liturgical calendar at the USCCB website to underline the point.
- Did you know that we celebrate Easter in an especially intense way during the Octave of Easter? “At Masses during the Octave of Easter, as on Sundays, the Gloria, is recited or sung. And at the end of each Mass of the Octave, the double Alleluia is sung at the dismissal.” Read more about the Octave of Easter at Today’s Catholic News.
- Retell or re-enact the Gospel reading for younger kids (ages 3-6).
- What did you notice about the Gospel reading? Why do you think Mary ran away from the tomb? What do you think Peter and John were thinking when they saw the empty tomb?
The Word for This Week
Post a line from this Sunday’s readings on your refrigerator or in another prominent place. Our suggestion?
If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above. (Colossians 3:2)
What to eat during Easter: Breads and rolls
The Church offers as an alternative to the second reading for Easter Sunday this text from 1 Corinthians 5-8:
Brothers and sisters:
Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough?
Clear out the old yeast,
so that you may become a fresh batch of dough,
inasmuch as you are unleavened.
For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed.
Therefore, let us celebrate the feast,
not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness,
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
This might be the inspiration behind the widespread tradition of making sweet breads to eat on Easter. Traditional sweet breads include simnel cake, a light, toasted fruit cake with two layers of almond paste or marzipan, common to Britain and Ireland; potica and other nut rolls; and in Bulgaria and Romania, cozonac, a variation on a sweet bread with raisins commonly eaten throughout Europe on Easter.
For something a little more savory, try the Jamaican Easter bun.
Bless your Easter meal
The USCCB’s Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers contains a special blessing for the first meal eaten after the Easter vigil, following a widespread tradition in Slovak countries. If you don’t have a copy of Household Blessings, you can learn more about the practice, and find an older version of the blessing, at Catholic Culture.
Activity: Easter games [ages 4+]
Spice up your Easter Sunday with some traditional Easter games:
- Races. Re-enact today’s Gospel reading with foot races. If you have kids of different ages, give the younger kids a head start, or even things up by having a sack race, or having everyone race like different animals (hop like a bunny, slither like a snake).
- Egg rolls. Once your Easter egg hunt is over, do an Easter egg roll. There are different ways to do this, including rolling eggs down a slope (the one that goes furthest wins), or rolling them across the lawn with a spoon.
- Egg tossing. Egg tossing is not only an Easter tradition around the world, but also a sport regulated by the World Egg Throwing Federation. As you might imagine, the competition usually involves throwing or tossing an egg, either into a soft lawn or to a teammate; the person or team who manages to throw the egg farthest without breaking it wins.
- Fly a kite. In Bermuda, people fly homemade kites on Easter to symbolize Christ rising from the dead.
- Have a water fight. Slovakia, Poland, and the Czech Republic had a complicated Easter tradition involving men symbolically whipping women they like; the women get their revenge by pouring a bucket of cold water over the men. These days, though, the tradition has devolved into a day-long water fight. What this might have to do with Easter is unclear, but if it’s warm enough where you live, it might be a fun way to cool off after your Easter egg races.
Monday, April 6
Activity: Read the Resurrection narratives this week
During the Octave of Easter, the Scripture readings for Mass focus on the resurrection narratives. Try reading the daily Scripture readings every day this week so that your kids can hear a wide variety of resurrection narratives. What are some common features of the different stories? Point out to your kids that Jesus always appears to his friends, not to the general public; the people to whom he appears often don’t recognize him at first; and although he can appear and disappear at will, he has a real body, which he demonstrates by showing the apostles his wounds and eating with them.
Teens, precocious older kids, and parents might be interested in Felix Just, S.J.’s web page on the Resurrection in the New Testament. Besides providing extensive background on the Resurrection, he also provides a chart comparing the accounts and questions for reflection.
Tuesday, April 7
Change your prayer table for Easter and set out holy water
If you keep a prayer table in your home, be sure to change it up for Easter. Here are some ideas:
- Change the covering to white (or gold) for the duration of Easter.
- Set out a picture of the Resurrected Christ.
- Purchase an Easter lily (they’re usually discounted after Easter).
- Get some holy water from your parish and set out a bowl of it on the table, and use it to bless your kids during family prayer.
- Make a Paschal candle for your prayer table.
- Bring out the bells! Bells are traditionally rung to celebrate Easter in many European countries.
You might also put holy water out by the doors of your home during the Easter season. If you do, explain to your kids the connection between holy water, baptism, and the Resurrection.
Wednesday, April 8
Start telling your kids the stories of the martyrs
If you don’t already tell your kids saint stories, now is a good time to invest in some books, or a good daily lectionary that includes the stories of saints. And when you tell your kids these stories, don’t shy away from the stories of the martyrs. It might strike you as morbid to talk to your kids about the saints who were killed for the faith, but the stories of the martyrs actually offer a powerful testimony to the implications of the Resurrection. As I argue in this week’s The Grace, we need to tell our kids these stories in order to free them to love with their whole being, in imitation of Christ. You can read the full essay, Why We Tell Our Kids the Stories of the Martyrs, at the Peanut Butter and Grace website.
Thursday, April 9
Do a Lenten debriefing + Easter plan
At the beginning of Lent, you might have sat down and made a Lent plan focused on praying, fasting, and giving. Sometime this week, take time as a family to look back at how Lent went, and to look forward to how you will mark the fifty days of Easter:
- Ask your kids what they liked most about your family’s Lenten practice.
- What Lenten practices have become good habits? Which do you want to keep nurturing during Easter?
- If Lent is a time to turn away from sin, then Easter is a time to focus on our new life in Christ. What special practices or habits can you adopt during the Easter season that reflect this new life?
Friday, April 10
Fish for breakfast
In today’s Gospel, the resurrected Jesus invites the startled apostles to “come have breakfast,” treating them to a breakfast of fish and bread cooked over the coals of a hot fire.
Read or retell the Gospel story (John 21:1-14) over breakfast. If your kids like fish, serve fish with their breakfast (fish sticks might do).
If your kids are not fans of fish, make fish-shaped waffles or pancakes to accompany your story. If you’re really ambitious, get a special fish-shaped waffle pan for making taiyaki, a Japanese delicacy in which a fish-shaped waffle is filled with a sweet red bean paste, fruit, creme, or other fillings.
Saturday, April 11
Activity: Plant an Easter garden [ages 3-12]
Planting an Easter garden is a great hands-on activity to do while explaining Easter to young children; older kids will enjoy it, too. You can keep it as simple as planting a few flower seeds in a few pots, then placing them on a windowsill so your kids can watch them sprout and grow over the course of the Easter season; or, if you are a little more ambitious and want more immediate results, check out the Easter garden project at A Holy Experience. (Even if you don’t follow their plan, the gorgeous pictures of this family’s Easter garden in a basket will inspire you.)
As you get your hands dirty, talk about the following points:
- When God created humans, he put them in a garden where they had everything they needed.
- God gave Adam and Eve the responsibility of tilling and caring for the garden, a task that continues for us today in our stewardship of the natural world.
- It was in this garden that human beings first sinned against God by saying “no” to his will.
- Jesus used gardens in many of his parables; like a plant bears fruit, he wants us to produce good words and deeds for the sake of the Kingdom of God.
- In the Garden of Gesthemane, Jesus said “yes” to God in order to save us from sin.
- After his death on the cross, Jesus was buried in a tomb; similarly, we must bury a seed in the earth if it is to grow; otherwise, it remains just a seed.
- The new plant that comes from the seed looks nothing like it. Similarly, when Jesus rose from the dead, his friends often did not recognize him at first.
- When Mary Magdalene first saw the resurrected Jesus, she mistook him for the gardener—a symbol of Jesus’ role in restoring life and order to a sinful world.