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What is Easter and How is it Celebrated?
Easter is thought to be the most important festival in the Christian calendar, and is at the centre of Christianity.
Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. After Jesus died on the cross, his body was placed in a tomb, formed from a hollow in a cave. After three days, he rose from the dead and spent time with his disciples.
The Easter story isn’t only about one day, Easter Sunday, but includes the whole week before. This is known as Holy Week.
What is Holy Week?
Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday and celebrates Jesus’ arrival into Jerusalem, where he is welcomed by huge crowds of people. It’s called Palm Sunday as the people who greeted him threw palm tree branches on the road before him.
This is the day of the Last Supper when Jesus had the Passover meal with his disciples. The word Maundy means command (mandate) and reflects how at the Last Supper, Jesus told everyone that we should love one another.
Many Christians celebrate Maundy Thursday by sharing bread and wine together in a service called Holy Communion, Eucharist or the Mass. It is a reminder that Jesus sacrificed his life for mankind.
On the Friday before Easter Sunday, Christians remember the day Jesus was crucified by attending services called Stations of the Cross. This is called Good Friday, when Christians remember what it means to them how Jesus gave up his life on the cross.
Easter Sunday celebrates the day of Jesus’ resurrection.
On this day Jesus’ disciples visited the tomb where his body had been placed and found it miraculously open with the body gone. An angel appeared, and told them that Jesus was alive. Sometime later, they met Jesus, who explained to them that he had risen from the dead.
How to share the Easter Story in your Early Years Setting
Here are a number of brilliant resources which will help to illustrate the story of Easter for younger children:
The Butterfly is a significant symbol of Easter and also a great parallel to the story of Easter. Its whole life cycle can symbolize the life of Jesus Christ. The first stage, is the caterpillar, which stands for His life on Earth. The Second phase begins from the cocoon stage, portraying the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. The third and final stage is the butterfly, representing His raising from the dead in a glorified body, bringing peace. This is also a great way to connect the natural world and new life to the Easter story.
For a free downloadable resource detailing the lifecycle of a butterfly click here.
Easy Easter Activities for Children
Palm Sunday – Make your own Palm Crosses
A great way to mark Palm Sunday is to create your own Palm Crosses. Don’t worry, you don’t have to use real Palm branches, simply substitute with everyday craft items such as tissue paper or card.
Hot Cross Buns – The Last Supper
To commemorate Maundy Thursday and the Last Supper, it’s fun to use Hot Cross Buns as a symbol for the breaking of bread. The cross on the top of the bun is also a symbol Jesus’ victory over death
Spring Flowers, Eggs and Baby Animals – New Life and the Resurrection of Christ
To commemorate the re-birth of Christ, symbols of new life such as flowers, baby animals and eggs are used. Why not create your own Easter Baskets, decorate them with flowers, and fill with eggs and baby chicks!
Here are some art and craft items to re-create this activity: