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 eggthough
pagan in its originsrepresents 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
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
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.
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 questionsas only a four-year-old canabout 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.
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 www.breaking-bread.com/episode106.htm.
The site offers recipes for both the oven and bread machine.
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