JOPLIN, Mo. —
One of my daughter's friends has an Easter activity that sounds like an awesome tradition.
Every year, he and his little sister each paint a wooden egg. The collection grows and changes as the kids do, reflecting their personalities, interests, talents and creativity.
The painted eggs are a physical reminder of growth, creation and new life. They display profound, universal elements of Easter, sure. But more than that, they just seem like fun.
As I thought about this wonderfully unique holiday tradition -- something beyond chocolate bunnies and egg hunts -- I began to hope my own family might embrace a new Easter tradition. With a little creativity, I can see any one of these traditions becoming a part of our holiday memories.
On Saturday night, I like the silly idea of planting jelly beans with our kids. They're still young enough to either believe or suspend disbelief long enough to be entertained. In the morning, they can run out to the planted ground and see what's grown overnight -- perhaps lollipops, candy-filled eggs or some plastic spinning pinwheels.
Then we could head inside and pile up with blankets, pillows and popcorn for an Easter movie marathon. I've heard great things about "It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown." For something longer (especially reserved for after the toddler's bedtime), we could try "Hop" or "Easter Parade" with Fred Astaire and Judy Garland. This is a great time to introduce our bigger kids to the world of classic musicals.
Because our little ones usually wake near sunrise, we could plan an Easter sunrise greeting breakfast. More than the usual sprawling scramble for toast or yogurt, we could have place settings, hot-cross buns, orange juice in fancy glasses and a rainbow fruit salad. We could talk about the meaning of Easter, new life and the freshness of the new day.
When it comes to the omnipresent Easter egg hunt, there are hundreds of ways to mix up the game. I have nothing against candy, but I don't mind minimizing the kids' sugar high on what is usually an insanely sweet day. Any way to substitute the sugar out of the plastic eggs gets my vote.
Older kids could have a scavenger hunt, with clues hidden in the eggs leading them to their Easter basket at the end. Or the eggs could be filled with tokens that can be spent on small gifts -- springtime jewelry or nail polish, animal figurines or matchbox cars. For the smaller kids, we might try fish crackers, raisins, stickers or bouncy balls.
For something that will last far beyond the actual day of Easter, I love the idea of filling eggs for the hunt with seeds instead of goodies.
Vegetables, fruits, vines, gourds, flowers, herbs -- imagine your family scooping dirt over mounds of seeds on this, the honorary first day of spring. Imagine teaching patience and watching your labors amount to something.
Imagine the metaphors about tending to and harvesting the new life that was planted on Easter. It could be really, really good.
It doesn't have to be an elaborate event, though. New Easter traditions might be as simple as sharing the decoration of a bunny-shaped cake every year. It could be the practice of trying to fill hollow eggshells with confetti and wondering who will be the first smash victim. It could be trading Peeps for Cadbury Eggs in a family-wide negotiation.
The means don't matter as much as the end: family memories, brought to you by Easter.
Sarah Coyne lives in Joplin. She writes about life and motherhood at her personal blog, http://thisheavenlylife.blogspot.com.