I come from an evangelical background. I never knew what Holy Week was until adulthood. My family didn’t honor Holy Days or institute regular Jewish Seders and feasts. I am changing that for my children and here is why:
“Family traditions counter alienation and confusion. They help us define who we are; they provide something steady, reliable and safe in a confusing world.” – Susan Lieberman
While my boys are not Jewish, or liturgical, the symbolism in these feasts and holidays are paramount to rooting them in our faith. I view Jesus as the Messiah who fulfilled the promise of the Jewish covenant with Yahweh. I want our boys to know that while the Church is made up of every believer and is not a building, it was instituted thousands of years ago by our Savior and beautiful, meaningful traditions were established to anchor us in our faith and commitment and understanding of scripture.
So, here we are in the thick of a Christian’s most triumphant season. Christ is celebrated. Christ is murdered. Christ is dead. Christ is alive! He is risen! These statements are powerful and I want our kids to have images in their mines and deep understanding of what these statements mean.
We started Palm Sunday using Rich + Rooted Passover by Jennifer Naraki. You can purchase it here. We sang an appropriate hymn and looked at some classical artwork together. While looking at the art, we answered the questions our children had about the lamb.
On Monday, we began our morning by writing “Hosanna” on a white tea towel. We discussed this as a shout of joy! A praise. We read about Jesus triumphantly riding a donkey through the city streets while being celebrated by onlookers. We discussed the culture and how this was what a conquering King would have done in those days. When a King won a mighty battle and took over a city or country, he would ride through the streets in victory, his enemies drug behind him, often dead, always defeated. This is so powerful and symbolic. Jesus defeated principalities of darkness and his victory ride through Jerusalem what defining that battle as His.
On Monday afternoon, we gathered some succulents, soil, a small pot, a stone, flowers, and a hanging planter. The boys helped forage for sticks and make three crosses. I ask them to explain why their were three crosses on that hill. I asked them to tell me what they knew about the tomb. They remarked on how ours was empty. We discussed that. We talked about the celebration of Passover we will have Thursday and how we are not looking for Elijah, but Christ’s return! We made a living Resurrection Garden that we can care for all year.
On Tuesday and Wednesday we will begin preparing food for our Passover Seder. The boys have been memorizing The Four Questions, just as young Jewish children do all over the world. We use this book to help learn the questions in English.
On Wednesday we will look at this famous painting and the boys will explain to me what they see.
Prior to our Seder, the boys will help me make Afikomen bags. We like to write the Hebrew letters for Yeshua on our bags to represent Jesus being our bread of life. This is a very simple craft to do with little ones. I asked a local grocery store for some paper bags and cut long rectangles. I folded each rectangle in half and then hole punched the two open sides for the boys to lace thread through.
I am often asked if we color eggs. We do. Our Seder has a boiled egg which is symbolic of the sacrifices given at the temple. However, I choose to focus my children on how we no longer must offer sacrifices and how the burden of our sin has been lifted. The coloring of our eggs is a celebration that we are free at last through our Passover Lamb and Messiah, from our sin. I do not choose to place these eggs in Easter baskets, and we don’t do a whole lot with bunnies during this time. Although I see bunnies as a Spring animal and we do learn about them!
We have our Passover Seder on Maundy Thursday. If we follow the life of Jesus, it seems He would have celebrated Passover with the disciples on this day. He washed their feet, He served them, He broke bread with them, and he revealed His plan to them more fully. At our Seder we behave similarly and follow more of Jesus’ model. We serve one another lovingly as we retell the ancient story.
On Good Friday, the boys will help me color eggs and we will choose a famous painting to recreate. On Holy Saturday we will prepare our Empty Tomb Rolls. These are so much fun to make. You can use crescent rolls in a can or use your favorite sweet dough recipe. we take marshmallows, roll them in butter, and dip them in spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and cloves). This marshmallow represents Jesus and the spices and butter are the anointing oil and burial spices used ceremonial during that time in history. Then we wrap him in his grave clothes (wrapping the dough) and seal the tomb tightly (pinching the dough around the marshmallow). On Sunday morning I bake them and the boys wake to an empty tomb! He is risen! Christ the Lord is RISEN!
I hope you find some encouragement for your family traditions here. Please leave a comment and share great resources and/or books you use to honor Jesus during Holy Week.