By Hannah Grieser
The Christian calendar has a wonderful way of focusing our attention on the rich truths of our faith. Through various family and church traditions, even our youngest children can start to experience the goodness of these truths in tangible ways.
Our kids may not fully grasp the significance of the incarnation, but they can hear the notes of longing in the songs of Advent. They can smell Christmas cookies in the oven, affirming the goodness of the Word made flesh. They can see the twinkle lights that recall the true Light that came to us in our darkness.
And now at this time of year, as the days are growing longer (the word “Lent” originally meant the “lengthening” days of spring), we turn our focus toward the sufferings of Jesus, His death on the cross and, above all, His triumphant resurrection.
Surely these are events to remember with our children! But if you’re at all like me, you may find Good Friday and Easter traditions less plentiful than the ones surrounding Advent and Christmas. Few schools cancel classes for Holy Week. There are no radio stations switching over to 24-7 Easter music. But that doesn’t mean we can’t find ways to attach rich family traditions to these pivotal days in the Christian faith. We just have to get a bit more creative.
MUSIC THAT TELLS A STORY
In addition to attending a Good Friday worship service, one way our family has begun commemorating the day is by watching a full-length performance of Saint Matthew Passion or Saint John Passion by J.S. Bach (who has been nicknamed “the fifth evangelist”).
Younger children may not be able to sit still through the whole thing, but older kids and teenagers certainly can. Not only has this helped our kids get familiar with two of the greatest works of Christian music ever written, it also provides an extended meditation on the story of the crucifixion. The words are in German, but both are available online with English subtitles.
Another tradition that has helped make our Good Friday and Easter special is baking “resurrection rolls.” We deliver plates of them to our neighbors on the afternoon of Good Friday, which provides an opportunity to invite them to church for Easter Sunday.
The rolls are made with a traditional hot cross bun dough (mine comes from The Joy of Cooking)) but with a surprise: the dough is wrapped around a marshmallow, which melts during baking and leaves a hollow center—the “empty tomb”—full of sweet goodness. The raisins in a hot cross bun are said to represent the stain of sin; the icing cross recalls the cross of Christ, and the empty tomb reminds us of the glorious truth of Easter morning—that Christ has conquered death.
Like most holiday traditions, this simple activity helps to reinforce big truths. Our kids can hardly imagine an Easter celebration without them. Oh, and they are delicious—especially when warm.