As a parent of young children I have known quite a few people, church-goers and non-church-goers, who have had questions about how to handle the big holidays on our calendars. Thanksgiving is relatively easy, as is Valentine’s day; but for Christians and non-Christians what to make of Christmas and Easter?
Easter is fast approaching and bunnies are apparently magically dropping chocolate deuces all around. Some kids are about to get presents, seemingly everyone is about to get a bit of time off. Some people will wash each other’s feet and others will go skiing. What’s this all about? And more importantly, what am I to tell my kids about it?
I am a pastor, and I would venture a guess that most of the readers of this blog are too, so I will offer an answer for the Christian parent trying to make heads or tails of chickens and rabbits and chocolate ninja turtles.
There are several Old Testament, and a few New Testament, passages that talk of ritual and tradition, the act of marking an event in time through the ages. In Exodus we read about the Passover and we read about how it is to be marked (Exodus 12:24-27). I think it is a helpful place to look for guidance.
In Exodus people are to mark an important event by following a particular ritual and their children are to learn the ritual by watching and participating in it. Here comes the important part: Once they are old enough to start to question the ritual you teach them about it.
It’s important because as a child there is mystery and awe and magic in the world. Children know a major event when they see one, and they mostly accept such events and revel in them with an innocence us adults can only dream of (or if we are really lucky we still hold a couple of memories from such days).
I believe children eventually ask about such traditions because they can see that we value them and because they too value them, though for different reasons. We mustn’t take away those reasons or they may not be interested in the “more mature” reasons we are interested in; just like they will one day reject our music.
It’s also important because it means that we need to pay attention to what we do to mark important events and times of year. We need to be intentional about it. We need to stop and ask ourselves why certain things are the way they are and why we participate. This will allow us to answer the harder questions our children might have, when they have them. It will also help us to regain some of the awe, the mystery, and the magic for ourselves. It will help us have pleasure in the moment rather than simply strife as we try to accomplish too much and create specific memories for our children.
This Easter instead of worrying too much about what you should and shouldn’t do on account of your children, take the time to ask why such a thing is done and if the answer is foolish don’t do it; just make sure that you don’t remove the magic of a time of year for your children, or they won’t ever care why you mark things the way you do (it’s okay for the answer to why we do something to be so that kids can enjoy the moment as well). The truth is God created these fasts and feasts for our enjoyment, benefit, and education, not for his and to some extent we ought to do the same for our children.