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By Susan Hines-Brigger

Alleluia! Christ Is Risen: Celebrating Easter


Explaining Challenging Topics
Celebrating Easter in the Kitchen
For Teens: Reenacting Christ's Passion
For Kids: The Paschal

If there's one thing I've learned in my three years of being a Catholic parent, it's that the struggle to maintain a balance between the secular and religious aspects of a holiday is not an easy one. It's not easy because secular celebrations almost always seem more appealing than their religious counterparts.

Easter is no different. As Catholics, Easter is the most important liturgical celebration throughout the year. It is a day that signifies our belief in Christ's death and resurrection. But to most kids, it is the day that the Easter Bunny brings them a big basket full of candy and treats.

I guarantee that if you ask my three-year-old daughter, Madison, on any given day to choose between going to Mass on Easter Sunday and celebrating Christ's resurrection or meeting the Easter bunny and taking part in an Easter egg hunt, the bunny would win hands down.

The truth of the matter is, though, I have found if I try hard enough, there is almost always a connection to be made between religious and secular traditions. Just how we do that is our challenge as Catholic parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and godparents.

For instance, while your kids may love hunting for Easter eggs in order to get the prizes tucked inside, you can also explain to them that the custom of the Easter egg—though pagan in its origins—represents new life and has become a key symbol of the Easter celebration. This can then open the door for a fruitful discussion about Baptism, Christ's resurrection, etc.

Even if the child may be too young, as Madison is, to understand an in-depth explanation of what the Sacrament of Baptism truly means, it never hurts to introduce these topics even in a simplified way.

For instance, when Madison looks at her baby album and sees the pictures from her Baptism, Mark and I simply tell her that that was when she became a part of her Church family. Such statements at least make her aware of the sacrament and that she took part. More detailed and age-appropriate explanations/discussions can follow at a later date.

Explaining Challenging Topics

Part of the challenge of addressing religious celebrations with our children may be that many of the Church's feasts are rather adult in nature and content.

For instance, a few years ago I read a children's book about Holy Week and Easter to my then-four-year-old niece, Samantha. For weeks after reading the book, Samantha repeatedly asked her mom questions—as only a four-year-old can—about Jesus' wrongful arrest and crucifixion and how he managed to rise from the dead after three days.

Rather than divert her attention from the topics, my sister used the opportunity as a teaching moment, honestly answering Samantha's questions in light of what our faith teaches.

The many symbols and stories that accompany Holy Week and Easter provide numerous opportunities for engaging children and teaching them more about their faith. This Easter, search out opportunities to make the connection between the holiday's secular traditions and their Christian connections. Chances are, you'll learn something new in the process.

If you're not sure what those connections are, make a visit to your local library for books on Easter and its traditions or search the Web. Your parish may also have resources available.

Celebrating Easter in the Kitchen

One of the many symbols of Easter that you may find in books about this holiday is the hot cross bun, a tasty bakery treat often served during the Easter season.

There are a number of stories about this treat's origin, including one in which a 12th-century English monk placed the sign of the cross on the buns in honor of Good Friday, and another which says the cross actually represents the horns of a sacred ox. Regardless of their origin, however, over the years these treats have become associated with Christianity's celebration of Lent and Easter.

To learn how to make hot cross buns, visit the Web site of the popular public-television series Breaking Bread With Father Dominic at The site offers recipes for both the oven and bread machine.

Next Month: Earth Day—Caring for God's Creation

For Teens: Reenacting Christ's Passion

During Good Friday services, the Gospel account of Christ's passion, death and resurrection is read. Oftentimes, the various roles, such as Pontius Pilate, Jesus (often represented by the priest) and the soldiers are read by various individuals. Ask your pastor if you could take part in the reading.

Another outlet for reenacting Christ's suffering, death and resurrection is the Passion play. These plays are often performed throughout the Lenten and Easter season. Suggest that your youth group or you and a group of your friends—with the guidance of your pastor or parish liturgist—perform a Passion play for the parish community. (It's probably too late to plan such a performance for this year, but you can begin now to make plans for next year.)

Sometimes you can get more out of something by becoming involved.

For Kids: The Paschal Lamb

The lamb is probably the most prominent symbol of Easter. Christ is often referred to as the paschal lamb or Lamb of God. This Easter, make your own paschal lamb. You will need the following:

° White construction paper
° Pencil and markers
° Image of a lamb (You can trace a lamb cookie cutter for this or use a   photocopy from a coloring book, etc.)
° Scissors
° Glue
° Cotton balls

Draw or make a copy of the image of the lamb onto the construction paper. Cut out your lamb. Glue the cotton balls onto the lamb to imitate the lamb's wool. Draw eyes and add any other decorations you would like for your lamb. Finally, proudly display your paschal lamb for all to see during this Easter season!




Do you have ideas or suggestions for topics or ideas you'd like to see addressed in this column? If so, send them to me at

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