Thanksgiving Traditions

Involve everyone in your Thanksgiving dinner preparations. One of our family’s traditional contributions is Jack’s to-die-for (or from) mashed potatoes with butter & cream. Our kids know that they will be pealing a lot of potatoes on Thanksgiving morning and really kind of enjoy doing it. It’s nice if everyone can develop a special recipe or task that they look forward to contributing. It can be simple and it does not have to relate to cooking. If your family is a traditional women-only cook, develop the custom of men doing clean up-- or maybe taking the kids out for hike after dinner, giving the cooks a chance to put their feet up and enjoy some quiet visiting. Make the table setting special. Maybe place cards on which the guests can write blessings for which they are thankful-- or have a turkey centerpiece and give the guests paper feathers on which they can record their thanks.

Some people actually write on a linen tablecloth with permanent markers. Use a new color each year. Or create a Giving Thanks journal and add to it annually. Be sure to read highlights from previous years.

Consider choosing an activity that you could do every year-- an early morning touch football game with kids from the youth group, volunteering at a shelter, playing board games, have a short service of thanksgiving with reading, music, and prayer or attend a service at your church or another one. Ask everyone to bring photos, slides, or video excerpts to share. Make a long distance call to any missing family members-- pass the phone around so that everyone can say hello. If they aren’t available by phone, put the messages on audio or videotape and mail the tape.

Rocks

One of our favorite traditions is a very effective and historically Biblical way to celebrate family history and build faith. It was inspired by I Samuel 7:12 which says “Samuel took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer—“the stone of help” for he said, “Up to this point the Lord has helped us!”

Most of us would not place enormous carved stone monuments in our yard (or anywhere else) to commemorate the Lord’s working in our lives, but we can adapt this idea by using rocks. Our family has a basket of rocks on which we painted symbolic words.

There’s an amazing story behind one of our rocks. It represents a time when God provided for our family in a special way. This rock is inscribed with the word “Refrigerator.” Early in our marriage, Jack and I raised our young family on one freelance artist income. (You have heard the expression, “Feast or Famine”? There’s some truth to it!) During this period we had many opportunities to experience God’s provision. One of these times was the day our refrigerator broke down. It couldn’t have happened at a worse time. We certainly don’t always pray about our broken appliances, but this time Jack felt led to talk with God about the problem. “We need your help—and quickly. Please, before all our food rots!” Within an incredibly short time, we got a phone call from a friend. She said, “This may sound a little strange, but I was just wondering if you could use a refrigerator. My husband decided he wanted a new one with an ice maker for his birthday and we thought rather than selling our old one, we’d see if there was anyone who might be able to use it.” In over a half a century, never before or after that occasion has any ever offered me a refrigerator!

God doesn’t always answer our prayers or work in our lives in immediate and obvious ways, so having physical reminders—monuments, so to speak—of the times he has done so is an encouragement to us and to our children. We not only benefit from remembering the times of help in crisis, but times when God blessed us with special fun and fellowship. These are all parts of our family and spiritual history that we want to recognize and celebrate.

Start out by finding one rock to use for the first memory stone or Ebenezer in your collection. You can use paint or paint markers to draw a word or picture on it. If you are in the habit of journaling or scrapbooking, those are also good ways to record your special blessings. If you are a media buff, record your family members stories on DVDs. Ask your parents and grandparents to share their stories and make stones to commemorate them; it’s a great way to celebrate and pass on your family heritage.

Use your Ebenezers to frequently retell the stories of God’s love for and intervention on behalf of you and your family and friends. Bringing out your memory stones or recordings in difficult times is a wonderful way to be encouraged. We can’t think of a better faith-building tradition than this ancient custom of creating monuments to help you to remember and pass on the wonderful workings of God in your life—and Thanksgiving is a perfect time to carry out this tradition!

Links to Other Sites for Thanksgiving Ideas

http://www.scholastic.com/scholastic_thanksgiving/feast/index.htm
History of Thanksgiving

http://christianity.about.com/od/holidaytips/a/thanksgivingtra.htm
Thanksgiving Traditions and Trivia - Family Traditions and Trivia About Thanksgiving

http://www.primarygames.com/holidays/thanksgiving/games.htm
Thanksgiving games


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Jack and Kathy Stockman's Favorite Christmas Traditions

Advent Candles & Wreaths | Favorite Activities | Party | Twelve Days of Christmas | Tradition | Websites & Books

wreathEarly in our marriage we talked and prayed about what we wanted for our family during the holidays. There are many traditions we developed over the years, but one activity transformed our Christmas observance. This was a simple daily family worship time focused on reading the story of Jesus’ birth, a little at a time, in a handmade book designed like an Advent calendar. Ours used Christmas cards for pictures of Mary, Joseph, the angels, etc. (We did find a card with Elizabeth & Mary, but never one of Herod.) For over twenty years, we have been reading this Christmas story almost every night during the month of December, along with lighting Advent candles, singing a carol, and praying. God eventually led us to start sharing the ideas which we gathered and researched and then to publication of The Advent Book, first by Crossway Books from 2000-2007, now by Open Doors.

 

Advent Candles & Wreaths

Advent candles may be any color. The most traditional choice is three purple and one pink candle. Purple is the color of repentance, an appropriate attitude when preparing for Christ's coming. The pink candle represents joy and typically is lit on the third Sunday. White candles, which we use, are also common. The center Christ candle usually is white regardless of the colors of the other candles. Over the years, Christians have assigned various meanings to the Advent candles. Here are some examples.

First Candle: Prophets, Faith, or History

Second Candle: Angels, Joy, or New Birth

Third Candle: Shepherds, Love, or Jesus' Second Coming

Fourth Candle: Wise Men, Hope, or Peace

Our family gives each candle two meanings. We call the first candle the Prophets candle, and it represents faith. The prophets had faith that the promised Messiah would come. The second candle is the Angels candle; it signifies joy. The news the angels told brought joy. The Shepherds candle, our third, is associated with love because the shepherds went to worship Jesus, who is love. Hope is the significance of the Wise Men candle, our fourth. The Wise Men from the East remind us that Jesus was sent not only for the Jewish people, but for every nation.

 

This is the basic format we use for family worship during Advent: We acknowledge the meanings we've given to the Advent candle(s) and light the appropriate one(s); we read the pages of The Advent Book, beginning with Day 1 and ending on the current date; we sing a carol, pray, and blow out the candle(s), again acknowledging the meanings we've chosen. We also enjoy extending our worship time as often as possible, reading an additional story or Scripture passage, singing more carols, and finishing up with hot chocolate and cookies.

When we first decided to use Advent candles, we shopped around for an Advent candleholder. They were difficult to find and the few we saw were made of glass or metal. We liked the idea of an Advent wreath, both for the symbolism (representing life and growth) and for the way it looked, but did not find any in stores.

We solved that problem by learning to make one ourselves. If you are interested in making an Advent wreath of your own, here is the method we used: Spray paint a styrofoam ring (10” diameter by 2” tall) green, then cover the bottom with green felt. (Optional: Glue Spanish moss on the top and sides as additional cover.) Insert plastic candleholders (made for floral products) and individual evergreen branches into the Styrofoam. (If you can’t find the holders, you can just put the candles in the styrofoam, but it is better to cut the holes out first.) Weave ivy (tinged with gold spray paint) through the branches and embellish with decorations such as pinecones (which may also be gold painted), holly berries, and small fruits. These may be attached with wired floral sticks. You may also wish to thread ribbon and or thin gold wire though the branches.

A simpler version may be made by using a ready-made evergreen wreath. If you can’t find one with candleholders, just use a regular wreath. Arrange the boughs so that you can place four small candleholders among them and then decorate by winding ribbon through the branches and attaching holly berries. Wind a flexible garland of greenery around the ring to cover it and decorate with a few picks that have flowers, berries, ribbons or other decorations attached— The wreaths and the decorations can be purchased at craft stores like Michaels, Jo-Ann’s, or Hobby Lobby.

We light a fifth candle on Christmas Eve. It is placed in a candleholder in the center of the wreath. We like to use a holder that is several inches tall so that the center candle, which represents Christ, stands higher than the rest.

We recommend using high quality tall candles if you plan to burn them often. We keep ours burning every evening during the entire family worship time and the first candle is sometimes only about an inch tall by Christmas Eve!

Our Favorite Activities for the Celebration of Christmas

Using the Advent candles and Advent Book is our family’s favorite tradition, but there are several others that we have really enjoyed. One is that on Christmas Eve we have a special family dinner with the kids’ grandparents as guests. We always have the same menu— a slow cooked roast, mashed potatoes, rolls, corn, carrots, salad, & sparkling grape juice. After dinner, we enjoy our last Advent time of the year.


Dad/Jack, grandma, Shea, grandpa, & Kaidrea Mom/Kathy was the photographer ~ Circa 1999

For over fifteen years, we had an annual caroling time with three other families from our church. We caroled at the homes of mutual church members and friends, neighbors, and at least one or two “unknowns.” The caroling was preceded by pizza dinner, and of course that was followed by hot chocolate and cookies.

Another custom we’ve always liked is to choose one Christmas card to read each day at dinner and pray for the sender(s). If it’s someone like an out-of-town relative or an old college roommate whom your children don’t know, tell them about the person— especially if you have some funny or interesting memories.

Christmas Day is always spent with Kathy’s family, most of whom live nearby. Over the years, we have established many traditions. One that we feel is particularly meaningful is a Christmas pageant performed by the cousins. It was first produced by the moms, Kathy, Mary, and Julie, but as the kids got older, they took on more responsibility. (There are seven kids, ranging thirteen years in age—Now the youngest is in high school and four of them are in their twenties.) Each year we chose a retelling of the birth of Jesus from a different point of view, usually inspired by a children’s book, which we then turned into a script. Occasionally we were lucky enough to find an appropriate play and adapted that script to the number and ages of our children. We videotaped the plays ahead of time and watched them on Christmas Day, along with at least one or two tapes of past plays. Now that most of the children are grown up, we no longer make new plays, but have at least a dozen of their plays on a DVD that we still enjoy watching.

We also had mini-recitals. In what was a fortunate fun tradition, all of the girls in the family chose to become flute players and the boys, trumpet players. (A few played drums too, but (un)surprisingly, we didn’t feature them on Christmas.) We enjoyed the special music—especially after the musicians had benefited from a few years of lessons!

One of the traditions that no one has outgrown is our Question Time. Years ago we made “goodie bags” for each family member. Each year we refill the bags with inexpensive candy, accessories, toiletries, etc. (We have kept these bags intact over the years by never allowing them to be removed from the room. After everyone has retrieved all their items, they’re issued zip lock baggies to use to take home them home.)

The goodie bags are distributed one at a time, starting with either the youngest or oldest person and going up or down. Before family members open their bags, they must answer a question. There are always three to chose from and we have new ones every year. One is usually related to sharing a personal experience or family history, one “just for fun,” and one that encourages more depth or spiritual application. The answers are often unpredictable and we are frequently in tears, sometimes from strong sentiment, but more often from laughter. We also recommend using questions for times such as at dinner or in the car. (A great resource for question ideas is the book, The Christmas Conversation Piece by Bret Nicholaus & Paul Lowrie— Available on our store page.)

Every year we also take a photo of all the kids with some fun silly prop. They have worn or held everything from flashing reindeer antlers or Santa’s beards to gift bags and halos. Here are a few of our past photos:

Party!

The Stockmans have an annual party that always follows the same format. We put luminaria up the front walk to welcome people and have decorations, candles, music, and fragrance to set the mood. The first part of the party is socializing over fondues— cheese and chocolate. When everyone has arrived and had a chance to visit with each other, we play a game. It is a specially prepared Christmas version of games like Taboo, Pictionary, Outburst, Trivial Pursuit, Scattegories, Name That Tune, or Wheel of Fortune. After the game (which is usually very boisterous and rowdy), Jack reads a Christmas story with the illustrations projected on the wall via slides. Then the guests have a chance to stretch out and visit over Christmas cookies & desserts with coffee, tea, or hot chocolate. The next activity is an exchange of small gifts such as candles, coffees, Christmas ornaments, etc. (The gifts are placed under the Christmas tree when the guests arrive.) Before a person or couple can choose and open their gift, they must… Yes, you guessed it— Answer a Question! We follow the same format as with our family Question time, except that we do NOT take turns according to age. The party traditionally ends with the lighting of our Advent candles and singing of Christmas carols, closing with Silent Night.

The Twelve Days of Christmas

The twelve days of Christmas is the time from December 26th to January 6th, Epiphany. (The word Epiphany means to appear to be manifest. The significance of the day Epiphany is the visit of the Magi to Jesus. Epiphany celebrates the fact that Christ came not only for the Jewish nation, but also for the rest of the world. It marks a turning point in history.) To take some pressure off of the Christmas season, we incorporate the Twelve Days of Christmas into our celebration. By December 26th (hopefully!) the decorating, shopping, and other tasks are done and it is a more relaxed time to enjoy Christmas activities. We have made it a point to give our children gifts to be used during this time—a game to play, craft project to do, or place to go together. One year when both of our children were away at college for most of the month of December and we were not able to have many days of Advent together, we gave them a small gift on each of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Some were very simple, such as a note stating that we were cooking their favorite meal and dessert (or eating at Taco Bell). Some were small wrapped presents. They enjoyed the extra attention, as well as the gifts. You might do this with other family members or friends—a certificate promising a spouse an evening out, a mom an afternoon tea or massage, a sister a day of babysitting, a friend a promise to accompany her while she braves the Returns lines at the mall— followed by a rejuvenating snack or meal in a favorite spot.

The last tradition we always do each year involves taking down our Christmas tree. Due to the large number of ornaments we have, it’s a big task and not surprisingly, it lacks the sense of excitement that was present when we put them up. We invite a family over for dinner and warn them up front that the cost of the dinner is the expectation that they will help take down the ornaments and try to help us finish off the last of our Christmas cookies. We do excuse them from the unpleasant task of removing and untangling the lights and disposing of the tree!

Tradition

Traditions have been an important part of our celebration of Christmas for over three decades, but there are also times when change is appropriate. We have had to make several in recent years, as our children (and nieces & nephews) have become young adults, gone away to college, moved, and married. Our goal is to hold onto what is important and still relevant, and at the same time, find new ways to enhance our family life.

We are always looking for new ideas for Christmas activities and traditions not only to use, but to share with others. If you would be willing to tell us about a favorite of yours, please e-mail us at Stockmans@Celebrations-and-Traditions.com. (If you got the idea from a book, please let us know that so we can properly attribute it to the author.) We would love to hear from you!

Celebration of Christmas Booklet

We offer a Celebration of Christmas booklet with a lot more information & ideas for free at our presentations and for sale on our store page. The booklet has a hundred good ideas for Advent, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, the Twelve Days of Christmas, and Epiphany.

Recommended Websites and Books

The following is a list of websites and books we recommend. Some of the books are stories or devotional readings and others are resources for information and ideas. Many of the books were published in the 80’s & 90’s and are out of print, but hopefully all can be found through the Internet (second hand usually)— and they are worth the effort of searching.

http://www.christmasincyberspace.com/
Information, activities, poems & stories, skits, crafts, graphics, etc.

http://www.harrisdvores.com/skits/christmas_game.html
"So You Think You Know About Christmas" quiz show game

http://www.christiananswers.net/christmas/mythsaboutchristmas.html
Factual Information about the birth of Jesus

http://www.btinternet.com/~prgreetham/Wisemen/wmsoc1.html
Factual information about the wisemen

http://ngfl.northumberland.gov.uk/christmas/nativity/nativity.html
Arrange a Nativity Scene activity

http://www.apples4theteacher.com/word-finds/religious-christmas-wordsearch.html
Christmas Word Search

http://www.christian-homemaking.com/giveaway.htm
Give Away: A New Holiday Tradition from Christian Homemaking

http://www.orientaltrading.com/ui/browse/processRequest.do?Ne=90000&sp=true&Ntk=all&Ntx=mode%2bmatchallpartial&cm_re=TOP-_-HD-_-HD&N=377623&tabId=Holidays&requestURI=viewEndecaCategory
Source for Inexpensive Nativity Costumes (shepherds, wisemen, sheep, etc.)

Stories

(In Alphabetical Order)

An Angel’s Story
Max Lucado
Thomas Nelson 2002

Baboushka
Traditional Russian Folk Tale
Our version was published with very colorful illustrations in 1982 by Lion Publishing
An old favorite

Christmas Classics for Children
Warren, Van Woerkom, Rutz, Marxhausen, & Moore
Concordia Publishing House 1981
Out of print, but worth looking for. Great short stories for young children (4-8)
Poor and/or outdated artwork unfortunately

Fair’s Fair
Leon Garfield
Doubleday 1981
Out of print, but worth looking for. Not about the Christmas story per se, but with good values.
One of Jack’s favorites!

Jesus’ Christmas Party
Nicholas Allan
Random House 1991
Out of print, but really worth looking for.
Short, simple, & humorous-- but respectful-- account of the birth of Jesus

One Wintry Night
Ruth Bell Graham / Richard Jesse Watson
Baker Books 1994
The Christmas story from creation to nativity

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
Barbara Robinson Harper & Row / Avon Books 1982
“Chapter book” rather than an illustrated story book
Humorous & good

The Christmas Letters
Bret Nicholaus
Questmarc Publishing 2000

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey
Susan Wojciechowski / P.J. Lynch
Candlewick Press 1999
Very good

The Christmas Visitor
Anneliese Lussert / Loek Koopmans
North South Books 1998
Very good

The Gift of the Magi
O’Henry
Our version was illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger and published in 1982
by Neugebauer Press

The Other Wise Man
Henry van Dyke / Retold by Pamela Kennedy / Illustrated by Robert Barrett
Ideals Children’s Books 1989
Wonderful touching story with a great message
A Family Favorite

The Tale of Three Trees
A Traditional Folk Tale
Our version was published in 1989 by Lion Publishing

The Twenty-four Days Before Christmas
Madeline L’Engle / Joe DeVelasco
Harold Shaw Publishers 1984

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree
Gloria Houston / Barbara Cooney
Dial Books for Young Readers 1988
Out of print, but worth looking for- Good story
Takes place in the Appalachian Mountains during WW I
Artwork fits the story well

When Mother Was Eleven-Foot-Four
Written by Jerry Camery-Hoggatt & Illustrated by Mark Elliott
Revell 2007
A Christmas story about a single parent family learning to cope with challenging circumstances

Devotional Books

(In Alphabetical Order)

A Family Advent Celebration
Dobson, Swindoll, Boice, & Sproul
NavPress 1989

O Come Let us Adore Him
Melody Carlson / Tony Meers
Crossway Books 2000

One Incredible Moment
Max Lucado
Thomas Nelson 2001

Preparing for Jesus
Walter Wangerin Jr.
Zondervan 1999

The Christ of Christmas
Calvin Miller
Broadman & Holman Publishers 2002

The Mary Miracle
Jack Hayford
Regal Books 1994

Information & Idea Books

(In Alphabetical Order)

Celebrating a Christ-Centered Christmas
Sharon Jaynes
Moody Press 2001

The Christmas Book
Alice Slaikeu Lawhead
Crossway Books 1985
Out of print, but worth looking for. Was republished in the 90’s with a different title.
Best book we’ve found for stimulating thinking about how to plan a meaningful celebration of Christmas--
Good advice, information, & suggestions

The Christmas Conversation Piece
Bret Nicholaus & Paul Lowrie
Ballantine Books 1996 / Still in print
“Creative Questions to Illuminate the Holidays”
Available on our website store page

Simplify Your Holidays
Marcia Ramsland
Thomas Nelson 2008
Finally, a worthy successor to Alice Lawhead's Christmas Book
A Christmas planner to use annually~ This binder has an eight-week plan to address all details of the season, breaking each task into manageable pieces. It also has a daily devotional journal to keep you focused on the meaning of Christmas.
Available on our website store page

Mixed Content (Example: Some ideas, some devotional thoughts)

(In Alphabetical Order)

Christmas Abundance
Candy Paul
Thomas Nelson 2000

The 25 Days of Christmas
Rebecca Hayford Bauer
Thomas Nelson 1994

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Easter Traditions


Start with Lent
On the Celebration of Christmas page we talk about how to use Advent to prepare for Christmas. The traditional time set aside to prepare for Easter is Lent. Lent begins on the seventh Wednesday before Easter (Ash Wednesday). The period of Lent consists of forty days. The forty days do not include Sundays, which commemorate the Resurrection. Forty days is a traditional time of preparation in the Bible. For example, Jonah was in the whale for forty days, Moses stayed on Mt. Sinai for forty days, and Jesus spent forty days in wilderness praying and fasting before beginning his ministry. Lent is a time for prayer, self-examination, repentance, reflection, special service or giving, fasting, and preparation for Easter.

FIND ADDITIONAL IDEAS FOR EASTER TRADITIONS
on our February 2009 blog update at: Celebrations-and-Traditions.com/blog.
Palm Sunday
The Sunday before Easter commemorates the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. (Mark 11:1-11) People lined the path, throwing down their cloaks and waving palm branches, crying, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!” There was a custom at that time of waving palm branches as symbol of independence and liberation and to welcoe leaders and rulers. A ruler or military leader would have been riding on a horse, but Jesus showed that he was not coming to be a that kind of king by choosing to ride on a donkey as was prophesied in the Old Testament. Donkeys symbolized peace and humility. (Philippians 2: 5-8, NIV: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in the appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross." )

Decorate the table for lunch or dinner using real or artificial palm branches. Small children can march around the house and wave the palm branches, saying, “Hosanna!” (You can make the palm branches out of green construction paper.) Talk about the kingship and kingdom of Jesus.


Maundy Thursday
The word Maundy comes from the Latin word meaning mandatum, meaning command. John 13:34 says, “A new command I give to you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Maundy Thursday commemorates the night Jesus introduced the disciples to the Lord’s Supper. On this occasion he also washed their feet and commanded them to love one another. Consider participating in a service (which might include communion or foot washing) with your family or church. With young children, consider having them polish someone's shoes. At dinner, let family members take turns serving each other. Talk about what it means to serve others and remind your children that, when we do, we are serving Jesus.

The Last Supper was held at Passover. Discuss the link between the Passover sacrifice and Communion. Invite another family over to share a Passover Meal. Read the story of the Last Supper from John 13:1-11 You can get a guide for conducting a Seder (Order of service) at: http://www.christianseder.com/haggadah.html. Or just make a simple sampling of the foods – Below is a list of what to serve with a simple explanation of what each food symbolizes. (By Jan Brown for Christianity Today)
Serve Unleavened bread: This symbolizes the Bread the Israelites took with them from Egypt. In their haste, they did not have time to let it rise. The bread that Jesus broke at the Last Supper was without yeast or unleavened. Yeast stands for sin. Jesus said the bread represents his body. He was without sin. His body was broken for us.
Serve Lamb: The Lamb was killed so that the blood could mark the doorposts of the houses of the Israelites. When the angel of death saw the blood on the doorpost he would pass over that house and not kill the first born child. Jesus is our Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Serve Horseradish as a reminder of the bitterness the Israelites experienced while they were slaves. We remember how bitter our lives are when we are slaves to sin.
Serve Haroset. (Grind apples, nuts and a little honey together) The Haroset is eaten as a symbol of hope. Jesus is the hope of the world. He is sweeter than the honey in the honeycomb.
Dip Parsley into salt water and taste. This reminds us of the tears that were shed in Egypt. The parsley is a symbol of new life. We are reminded of the sorrow we feel when we think of Jesus dying on the cross. But the green reminds us of the new life that we have in Him.
Serve Grape Juice. Jesus said this cup was a sign of his shed blood for us on the cross. Whenever we drink it, we should drink it in remembrance of Him.

Instead of a dinner, with very young children, consider just serving a simple form of unleavened bread-- Matzo (prounounced Matzah) crackers.

Good Friday
Good Friday is the day when Jesus' death is commemorated. Children may ask why we call it “Good” Friday. For Christians, great good has come from his sacrifice. It is usually a very solemn day.

Close all of your shades and curtains at noon on Good Friday, keeping your home darkened until 3:00. (During the crucifixion it got dark at noon when Jesus cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" It stayed dark for three hours until Jesus committed his spirit into the Father's hands and died.) You might even keep the house dark, using candles and low lights, until Easter. If you have a cross, cover it with a black or purple cloth.


With very young children, make a crown of thorns using play dough and toothpicks.

Attend a service, watch a movie about the life of Christ, and/or read the Biblical account of the betrayal and crucifixion and listen to hymns about the cross.

Saturday
Have a Light in the Darkness devotional time
.
A Light in the Darkness
Place a candle in the center of the table and provide a candle for each family member or guest.
Parent(s) or host(s) read the regular text. Children or guests read or recite the text in italics.
(Very young children can just say, "Jesus is the true light.")

Light the center candle.

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light~ a light that will shine on all who live in the land where death casts its shadow.
Jesus is the true light~ He gives light to everyone.
This is the message he has given us to announce to you. God is light and there is no darkness in him at all.
Jesus is the true light~ He gives light to everyone.
I have seen the Savior you have given to all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations.
Jesus is the true light~ He gives light to everyone.
All nations will come to your light. Mighty kings will come to see your radiance.
Jesus is the true light~ He gives light to everyone.
For God, who said, "Let there be light in the darkness, has made us understand that this light is the brightness of the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ"
Jesus is the true light~ He gives light to everyone.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it. The light from heaven came in to the world, but they loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. But those who do what is right come to the light gladly, so everyone can see that they are doing what God wants.
Jesus is the true light~ He gives light to everyone.

Light each person's candle using the flame from the center candle.

For though your hearts were once full of darkness, now you are full of light from the Lord, and your behavior should show it. For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.
Jesus is the true light~ He gives light to everyone.
Lord, you have brought life to my life; my God, you light up my darkness.
Jesus is the true light~ He gives light to everyone.You can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.
Jesus is the true light~ He gives light to everyone.
You are the light of the world~ like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see. DonÕt hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all. In the same way, let your good works shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
Jesus is the true light~ He gives light to everyone.
The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Jesus is the true light~ He gives light to everyone.
Lord, you have brought life to my life; my God, you light up my darkness.
Jesus is the true light~ He gives light to everyone.
Let us walk in the light of the Lord.
_______________________________
________________________________

Scripture References: (New Living Translation) Isaiah 9:2, I John 1:5, Luke 2:29b, Isaiah 60:3, II Corinthians 4:6, John 3:16-21, Ephesians 5:8-9, Psalm 18: 28, I Peter 2:9b, Matthew 5:14-15, Psalm 27:1a, Psalm 18: 28, Isaiah 2:5b
"Jesus is the true light~ He gives light to everyone." From John 1:9 ~ The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was going to come into the world. .

Make Resurrection / Easter Story Cookies with young children.

Resurrection Cookies
Read the whole recipe before beginning. Try to do it together with the children on the Saturday night before Easter Sunday.

Ingredients:
1 Cup WHOLE pecans 3 Egg whites
1 Cup sugar 1 tsp. Vinegar
Pinch of salt
You will need:
Wooden spoon Zipper baggie
Bowl Bible
Tape Wax paper
Cookie sheet
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Place pecans in zipper baggie and let children beat them with the wooden spoon to break into small pieces. Explain that after Jesus was arrested, the Roman soldiers beat him. Read John 19:1-3

Let children smell the vinegar. Put 1 teaspoon into mixing bowl. Explain that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross, He was given vinegar to drink. Read John 19:28-30

Add egg whites to vinegar. Eggs represent life. Explain that Jesus gave His life to give us life. Read John 10:10-11

Sprinkle a little salt into each child’s hand. Let them taste it and brush the rest into the bowl. Explain that this represents the salty tears shed by Jesus’ followers, and the bitterness of our own sins. Read Luke 23:27

So far the ingredients are not very appetizing. Add 1 cup of sugar, a little bit at a time while beating mixture. (See next step.) Explain that the sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died because He loves us. He wants us to know and belong to Him. Read Psalm 34:8 and John 3:16

Beat with a mixer on high speed for 11 to 15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed. Explain that the color white represents the purity in God’s eyes of those whose sins have been cleansed by Jesus. Read Isaiah 1:18 and John 3:1-3

Fold in broken nuts. Drop by teaspoon onto waxed paper covered cookie sheet. Explain that each mound represents the rocky tomb where Jesus’ body was laid. Read Matthew 27:65-66

Put cookie sheet in oven. Close door and turn oven OFF. Give each child a piece of tape and “seal” the oven door. Explain that Jesus’ tomb was sealed. Read Matthew 27:65-66

Explain that they may feel sad to leave the cookies in the oven overnight. Jesus’ followers were in despair when the tomb was sealed. Read John 16:20 and 22. GO TO BED!!

On Resurrection morning, open the oven and give everyone a cookie! Notice the cracked surface and take a bite. The cookies are hollow! On the first Resurrection Day, Jesus’ followers were amazed to find the tomb open and empty. Read Matthew 28:1-9
Author Unknown

Easter Sunday
On Easter morning, wake up the household with joyful music—perhaps the Hallelujah Chorus. If you have been keeping the house dark since Good Friday, open all the curtains and shades. Teach your children the traditional response to “He is risen!” (He is risen indeed!), then on Easter wake them up saying, “He is risen!” and let them respond. Encourage children to sing, dance, play a tamborine, wave a ribbon stick, etc.

Give your children Easter baskets with a Christian theme. Include things like a lamb with a little note stating that it represents the Lamb of God who came to take away our sin or give rock candy with a note saying that the rocks represent the stone that was rolled away. Include things like bookmarks, jewelry, or storybooks from the Bible Book Store that represent the story of Easter. If you feel that Easter baskets distract from the true meaning of Resurrection Day, but still want your children to enjoy them, you can help the “Spring Bunny” deliver baskets on first day of spring or some other day after Easter (when all the goodies go on sale).
Ideas for Use with Pull-Apart Plastic Eggs
Put an egg on or near each person’s dinner plate. Inside the egg have a treat and a small paper with an appropriate scripture verse or note. Let everyone read their verses aloud.

• Put eggs containing discussion questions on or near each plate and let each person at the table read their question. (“What is your favorite part of the Easter story?” “Tell us about a special memory from an Easter in your past or the first Easter celebration that you can remember.” “Who remembers the first people to find out that Jesus had risen?” “What is something that has happened to you since last Easter for which you are thankful?”)

• On a table or buffet, have two baskets—one filled with pull-apart plastic eggs and one empty, along with pens and small pieces of paper. Invite your guests to write prayer requests on the papers and put them inside the plastic eggs, which should then be placed in the second basket. When your guests leave, invite them to take an egg (or eggs as everyone may not want to participate) and pray for the person/request for the next forty days.

• If you have an Easter Egg hunt, include the eggs from the Resurrection Egg set along with the other eggs. After the children have found all the eggs, gather up the ones from The Resurrection set and open them in conjunction with reading the Easter story from the book Benjamin’s Box. (Just for fun, you might want exchange a small token gift for the Resurrection Egg when the child gives it to you or puts it in a box like Benjamin did.)
Resources You Can Make or Buy
Make or find a wooden cross and put it out at the beginning of Lent. On Good Friday, drape it with a purple or black cloth and/or a crown of thorny vines. On Easter Sunday remove the cloth and crown and cover the cross with flowers

Make an Easter Garden. Help your children make a terrarium or diorama.. Use a shoebox lid, planter base, or tin foil baking dish. Add soil and small rocks. Cut a paper towel or toilet paper roll in half to make Jesus’ tomb. Bury most of it with soil, grass, plants, and/or rocks so that it looks like the opening of a cave. Put a stone in front of the grave on Good Friday and then on Easter morning, make sure it is moved away. You could add a sign that says, He is Risen!

Benjamin’s Box
Written by Melody Carlson and illustrated by Jack Stockman
Signed by Jack & available on this website

The Resurrection Eggs
Produced by Family Life Ministries
Available on this website

Easter Kit with items above as well as gold “Benjamin’s” Box and other materials
Available on this website

These resources were designed to compliment each other. Use them to teach your children about the death and resurrection of Jesus in a hands-on creative way that will help them understand and remember the story. You can open the twelve eggs one each day leading up to Easter while reading the corresponding portion of the book or open the entire set while reading the story through at one sitting.

For Next Year

Save the trunk from your Christmas tree to use to make a centerpiece cross. (If you put up an artificial tree, get the tree from a family member, friend, or find one that has been discarded.) Explain to your children the symbolism of using a Christmas tree to make the cross—it demonstrates the connection of Christmas with Easter. Jesus was born in the stable in Bethlehem so that he could be one of us and die for us. To make the cross, cut two pieces out of the trunk and notch both of the pieces so they will fit together in the traditional cross shape. Drill holes for candles. (The amount of candles can vary; but we recommend between three and seven.) Decorate the cross with ivy and/or flowers using hot glue or a staple gun using curved staples. As at Advent, the candles can be purple (to represent repentance) and pink (to represent hope) or white. Whatever color the candles are, the candlelight always represents the light that Jesus brought into the world. The centerpiece can be used on every Sunday during Lent, every night during Holy week, or just on Easter Day.

 

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