We missed the start of Lent again this year, however we randomly started our count-down to Easter last weekend with this simple daily plan. The stones and candles represent the days until Easter, with the candles being lit to correspond with the number of days remaining until Good Friday. The candles go out one by one as each day passes, leading up to Jesus’ death on the cross – as the light of the world dies. (A large white pillar candle will be lit on Easter Sunday to represent Jesus’ resurrection.)
Each day in the little wooden bowl there will be a new object that represents the section of the Easter bible story that we will be reading and focussing on for that day. On day one it held palm branches and a donkey as we read about Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem. Day two was a small red bag of silver coins for the 30 pieces of silver paid to Judas to betray Jesus – red because it was “blood money.”The symbols will be added to the base of the large vase, building up into a collection that reminds the children of all the events we have learnt about.
I have printed out some pictures from the web to go with each day’s event for the little children to cut and colour and hang on the bare branches of our Jesus tree.
We will also be reading or listening to a book each night about Easter, exactly as we do at Christmas time in our book-a-night advent count-down. These books are wrapped and the children take turns to choose and unwrap one to read each evening. I am interspersing these with a free downloadable audio recording of “The 12 Voices of Easter” as we don’t have enough books to get us all the way to Good Friday just yet. This tradition is one that they love at Christmas time and are very pleased to repeat for Easter. They are also excited to see what the new object will be each day. These are the simple traditions that we hope will give our children memories that last a lifetime.
If I get the chance, I will come back and add photographs of the symbols as I use them, but for now, here is a list of the ones we plan to do. I am reading from “The Children’s Bible” because it is simple enough for my young children to follow, yet has enough detail to cover all the main events of the Easter story and hold the attention of the older children as well.
Triumphal entrance Palm branches, donkey
I go to prepare a place in heaven for you
Last Supper Goblet, bread
Servant King Bowl of water, washcloth, soap – wash each others’ feet
Judas 30 silver coins
Garden of Gethsemane
Caiaphas torn cloth for his torn robe, cotton wool ball clouds of heaven
Simon Peter Rooster feathers, handcuffs (arrested)
King Herod Crown, purple cloth, jewels
Pontius Pilot Bowl of water and jug, shimmering blue stones for water
The soldiers Dice, spears, crown of thorns, red cloth, scarlet cloak, nails
Simon of Cyrene Wooden cross
The thieves 3 crosses standing in bowl of sand
Mary Hearts – Mother’s love and sorrow
The person with the sponge Sponge with vinegar on a stick
Jesus’ Death on the Cross black cloth – darkness covered the land, piles of blocks – earthquake
The Roman soldier Skewer spear (pierces Jesus’ side), little bowl of water and another with wine for blood – water and blood came out from Jesus’ side.
The Centurion Pile of tumbled blocks and heavy cloth (torn temple curtain) Jewelled cross symbolising Centurian’s belief
Joseph of Aramathea Stone and tomb
Nicodemus White shroud
The women spices; cloves, cinnamon, jar of ointment
The Tomb Empty eggs, empty tomb, butterfly (risen and changed)
Jesus appears – various; Fish & camp fire, sheep (feed my sheep)
us – the people of God Tray of sand for children to “write” their sins, confess then wipe away. A pile of rock “burdens” imagine Jesus lifting all of your burdens off your shoulders and place at the cross. Playdough – sculpt things in our life that may become idols then crush them.
Ascension Cotton wool “clouds”
Holy Spirit Descends Candle, matches, oil lamp?
For more Christian Easter ideas see these posts;
“Grandpa’s Box” book review – a great book for any time but excellent as an Easter or Christmas count-down. The same bible stories told from a completely different viewpoint; as if we are engaged in a battle, which of course we are. Children who have grown up on the story surrounding Easter and are perhaps a little too familiar with it will be enthralled.
Amon’s Adventure – another excellent daily reading book that is designed to be used as a count-down to Easter. There are several more in the series that we have used at Christmas time and the children love them. Each section ends on a cliff-hanger that has them begging for more as they have to wait for the next instalment the following evening. A fictional story set at the time of Jesus’ death on the cross. Good for 6-year-olds plus, although we read it to our whole family including the younger children as well.
Jesse tree symbols for advent (can be used for Easter as well)