photo from www.plainvanillamom.com
Let's start with the most basic of all Easter activities: dying hard boiled eggs. Although the intricate designs of Ukrainian eggs are famous, another tradition of the Ukraine is to dye eggs in a single bright color. For a step by step explanation of how to do this, check out <http://www.plainvanillamom.com/2012/04/coloring-easter-eggs-with-food-coloring.html>. Before your Easter dinner, have the children place the eggs in the containers of newly grown grass (from last week's suggested activity).
Historic note: During the Middle Ages when infant mortality was high, bereaved mothers in the Ukraine took comfort during Easter by sending something tangible to the souls of their children. They told the story of the Blazhenni, spirits who live on the edge of the world where all the streams and rivers come together; these Blazhenni, they believed, were the souls of unbaptized babies. On Easter, grieving mothers would throw the shells of red-dyed eggs into nearby rivers and streams, believing that when the shells reached the Blazhennni, they would know that it was Easter and they, too, could celebrate. The Blazhenni were gentle spirits who ate no meat, except on the day the red shells reached them.
Another activity in preparation for Easter is to decorate an Easter Tree with ornaments of eggs, whales, and butterflies. Choose a tree or shrub in the yard, or bring a branch indoors to use as your Easter Tree. In preparation for making whale decorations, tell the children the story of Jonah and the whale (read it from Scripture, paraphrase it on your own, or use one of the many picture books -- Amazon lists 1, 618 versions of this story!). Jesus told his followers: “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” No wonder the early church celebrated the story of Jonah and the whale as symbolic of Jesus’ death, entombment, and resurrection!
Then as the children work on butterfly decorations, tell them about the metamorphosis of caterpillars into moths and butterflies through the seeming tomb of the cocoon, and tell them that the butterfly--also symbolic for the early church--is still used today to represent Jesus’ resurrection. Both Golden Books and Scholastic Books offer readable explanations and clear illustrations of the metamorphosis, or you could read Eric Carle’s lively classic, The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
If you haven’t talked about eggs while coloring them, do so as they make egg ornaments. Since ancient times, eggs have been symbols of fertility and new life. Many cultures believed that the world began as an egg; the Hindus, for example, said that the “World-Egg” was formed in “the waters of chaos” before the beginning of time. Christians adopted the egg as an Easter symbol because, like the dry, hard seed that brings forth new plant life, seemingly hard eggs bring forth new animal life. In both cases, what seems dry and hard and dead actually contains new life. This hiddenness is part of the strangeness and surprise of Easter itself.
For activities that echo this theme of hiddenness, have an old fashioned Easter egg hunt, either with hard-boiled eggs or with foil-covered chocolate eggs. Be sure to have extras to pass out at the end so that the less successful hunters don’t have empty baskets or bags. (If the successful egg-hunters complain, tell them the parable of the laborers in the vineyard from Matthew 20; or use Dina Strong’s retelling of this parable in her book The Vineyard and the Wedding.) Another option would be to get a piñata that holds hidden treasures; if you can’t find piñatas locally, you can online -- eggs, whales, and butterflies! Hang the piñata from a high place, and take turns blindfolding the children and having them swing a broomstick or other long stick at it (remember to have everyone else stand far back while this is going on). When a child finally manages to break open the piñata, all the children get to gather and share the goodies.