Holy Week: A Christ Centered Easter Tradition for LDS Families

I’ve mentioned before that Easter is my favorite holiday.  For years, our family celebrated Easter the same old way- an Easter egg hunt or two, candy, Easter baskets filled with cheap toys and bubbles, and maybe a new tie or dress. But my heart yearned for something more meaningful.

Then I got a book by Eric Huntsman called, “God So Loved The World.” It was the first time I had ever heard of Holy Week. This is a FASCINATING resource about the last week in the Savior’s life. He includes scriptures, music (classical and modern hymns), beautiful art, and rich history. It greatly enhances my understanding of and appreciation for the Savior and the Easter holiday. Immediately I began to adapt his ideas to fit our young family, and a very special Easter tradition was born. (Tons of material on the author’s website!)

Holy Week

Traditionally celebrated by many Christians throughout the world, Holy Week is 8 days of celebration and worship that focuses on the last week of Christ’s life, beginning the Sunday before Easter. As I’ve designed it, every day includes events that happened in Christ’s life on that specific day, a small activity, scriptures, songs, and something to hang on your wall. (We call it our “Holy Week Wall.” More on this later.) By the time Easter Sunday rolls around, our hearts our prepared in understanding and gratitude for the Savior’s atonement and resurrection.

We do these activities in place of our regular family scripture study. They can be easily adapted to the age/needs of your kids.

PALM SUNDAY
Traditionally called “Palm Sunday,” this day commemorates the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. He was welcomed by a joyful crowd waving palm leaves and shouting, “Hosanna!”
Scriptures: Mark 11:1-11 ; Matthew 21:1-11; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-19
Video: The Lord’s Triumphal Entry
Song: Hosanna (also see hymn 69, which is a traditional Palm Sunday hymn throughout Christendom)
Activity: Cut out “palm leaves” from green construction paper and role play Jesus coming into the city. (We have to do this many times so everyone has a turn to be the donkey and Jesus.)
Questions for Discussion: Why do the people honor Jesus in this way?  What does Hosanna mean?
Ideas For the Wall: Make a simple sign (8X11) that says, “Palm Sunday” and hang the palm leaves underneath.

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Palm leaf’n it.

 

MAD MONDAY
I call this day “Mad Monday” because (according to Mark) it’s the day Jesus cleansed the temple by chasing out the money changers and over turning the tables. (Note: Matthew and Luke place this event on Sunday, but for my purposes I went with Mark’s timetable.)
Scriptures: Mark 11:15-19; Matthew 21:12-13; Luke 19: 45-48
Video: Jesus Cleanses the Temple
Song: I Love to See the Temple , Come, O Thou King of Kings
Activity: Set up a small table (or a chair) with stuffed animals and play money. Role play Jesus coming in and turning over the table and driving out the money changers. My kids absolutely love this, and again, we have to do it repeatedly so everyone gets a turn playing every role.
Questions for Discussion: Why was Jesus upset? Is there such a thing as righteous anger? Why should we respect the temple? Where are places today that we see “money changers” or disrespect of sacred things?
Ideas For the Wall: Invite everyone to draw/color a picture of their favorite temple. Make a sign that says, “Mad Monday” and hang the temples underneath. Or, draw and hang a frowny face.

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It’s a mad, mad Monday.

 

TEACHING TUESDAY
I call this day “Teaching Tuesday” because of His teachings in the temple and the Olivet Discourse.
Scriptures: Matthew 22-25, Mark 11-13, Luke 20-21, and John 12 are full of His Tuesday teaching. Here are some examples of specific teachings you could highlight:
The Parable of 10 Virgins: Matthew 25:1-13
The Parable of the Talents: Matthew 25: 14-30
Parable of the Fig Tree: Mark 13: 28-31; Matthew 24: 32-35; Luke 21: 29-33
Parable of the Faithful and Unfaithful Servant: Matthew 24: 45-51
The Widow’s Mite: Mark 12:38-44, Luke 21: 1-4
Ye Have Done it Unto Me: Matthew 25: 31-46
Videos: The 10 VirginsThe Parable of the Talents, Ye Have Done it Unto Me, The Greatest Commandment, Render Unto God, The Widow’s Mite
Songs: Tell Me the Stories of Jesus, Jehovah, Lord of Heaven and Earth
Activity: Each family member is assigned a different scriptural passage from this day. He or she reads the passage silently, draws a picture to illustrate the particular teaching, then teaches the rest of the family about the principle (smaller children pair up with a parent). The parables work great for this because of their story form. Or, act out a parable!
Questions for Discussion: What is a parable? Why did Jesus often teach this way? Why did Jesus spend so much time teaching about the Second Coming on this day? Why/how do we need to prepare for the Second Coming?
Ideas For the Wall: Make a simple sign that says, “Teaching Tuesday” and hang the illustrations underneath.

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My daughter, teaching us about the 10 Virgins.

SPY WEDNESDAY
Wednesday is traditionally called “Spy Wednesday”  because of Judas’ agreement to betray Jesus.
Scriptures: Mark 14: 10-11; Matthew 26: 14-16; Luke 22: 3-6
Songs: If the Savior Stood Beside Me
Activities: Cut out 30 pieces of “silver” (tinfoil).
Questions for Discussion: Why do you think Judas decided to do this? Are there ways that we betray Jesus in our own lives? What choices do we make when no one is looking? How can we be better disciples of Christ?
Ideas For the Wall: Make a simple sign that says, “Spy Wednesday” and hang your 30 pieces of silver underneath.

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Cutting coins like a boss.

 

PASSOVER THURSDAY
It’s Passover! The day of the Last Supper and the Garden of Gethsemane.
Scriptures: Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 22; John 13-18
Videos: The Last Supper,  Gethsemane, MORE at this link (also fun to watch Prince of Egypt to get in the Passover spirit)
Songs: The Sacrament, Reverently and Meekly Now
Activity: For this day, we have a kid friendly “passover meal.” Grape juice (for wine), pita bread (for unleavened bread), horseradish (for bitter herbs), and a few other foods that may have been on the table at passover: HoneyComb cereal (for honey comb), fish (sticks), hard boiled eggs, raisins (or figs), and olives. (Cooking lamb is a little out of my comfort zone, so I usually just set a stuffed lamb on the table…)
Questions for Discussion: What is the passover and why do Jesus and the apostles observe it? What do the different foods represent?  What is the connection between the passover and the sacrament? What happened in the Garden of Gethsemane?
Ideas for the Wall: Draw and color a simple wine cup and loaf of bread to represent the sacrament. Or, glue cotton balls onto a simple picture of a lamb.

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Our fancy Passover meal. My kids totally dig it.

GOOD FRIDAY
Traditionally called “Good Friday,” this was the day Jesus suffered and died on the cross. This is a day my kids really feel. They ask a lot of questions.
Scriptures: Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 18, 19
Videos: Jesus is Scourged and Crucified
Songs: Help Us, Oh God, to Understand, Upon the Cross of Calvary 
Activity: Watch The Lamb of God
Questions for Discussion: Why did Jesus have to suffer and die for us? Why is this day called “GOOD Friday?”
Ideas for the Wall: Draw and beautifully color/decorate a cross. (One year, I handed everyone a strip of paper to decorate with their own name. Then we put them together to form a cross. I loved the way our names looked on the cross- reminding us that we were the reason He hung there.)

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SPIRIT WORLD SATURDAY
I call this day “Spirit World Saturday” because this was the day Jesus taught in the spirit world.
Scriptures: 1 Peter 3:184:6; D&C 138
Video: Jesus Visits the Spirit World
Songs: Family History, Turn Your Hearts
Activity: We love to visit the temple on this day. Older children can do baptisms and younger children can walk around the temple grounds and visitors center. If this is not possible, you could also share family history stories, index names for the temple, or write in your personal journals.
Questions for Discussion: Why did Jesus teach in the spirit world? Why is family history work and temple work important? How can our family participate in this work?
Ideas For the Wall: Make a simple sign that says “Spirit World Saturday” and color or hang pictures of your family or ancestors.

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A Spirit World Saturday Selfie

EASTER SUNDAY
Our favorite day! The day Jesus was resurrected and rose from the tomb.
Scriptures: Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20
Videos: Jesus is Resurrected, He is Risen
Songs: I love too many…here are some favorites: Did Jesus Really Live Again?  He Is Risen, That Easter Morn, Christ the Lord is Risen Today (I also like to play Handel’s Hallelujah chorus to wake my kids up in the morning, much to their dismay.)
Activity: Give your children “Jesus Baskets” instead of Easter Baskets. Everything in a Jesus Basket points to Christ. Our kids absolutely love these.
Questions for Discussion: What does the resurrection have to do with YOU? Why are you grateful for the resurrection?
Ideas For the Wall: Make a simple sign that says, “Easter Sunday” and hang a picture of the resurrected Jesus underneath (check your old Ensign magazines!).

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Jesus Baskets celebrate Jesus! And candy.

HOLY WEEK WALL:
I have a “thing” with using our walls to teach. I love this visual outline of the week AND I love listening to my kids answer their friends’ questions about the wall. Each year’s looks a little different. Here are two of our past Holy Week Walls:

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Walking with Christ through the last week of His life will bring new joy and meaning to your Easter worship, AND it may just become your new favorite holiday. Happy Holy Week!

(PS. Want all this info in a convenient printable? Click right here and it’s yours!)

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  • Kristina Blackburn - I enjoy the music.ReplyCancel

  • Ashlee page - Thank you so much for doing this. Me and my husband were talking just yesterday about doing Easter for a week and celebrating all the things he did. But we had no clue what to do. So thank you so much for sharing this! Ps, you were amazing at time out this last weekend!! I love you guys so much and love being able to learn and grow from you and your music. I listen to it daily!!ReplyCancel

  • Marlyn Barnes - Sounds wonderful!!ReplyCancel

  • Eric Huntsman - Whitney,

    I am thrilled that you enjoyed God So Loved the World and that it made a difference. And I *love* your ideas. I plan to link them to my holiday blog. Your readers can find what I have posted there beginning at http://huntsmanseasonal.blogspot.com/p/preparing-for-easter.html.

    BTW, I was at Time Out for Women with you in Idaho Falls this weekend and loved your performance Friday night (I was the guy standing, and dancing, along with John Bytheway in the front row!).ReplyCancel

  • G. Gugelman - Something else you might enjoy taking your family to during your Holy Week celebration. It’s close to you.

    https://m.facebook.com/WalkWithChrist.Pocatello?refsrc=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FWalkWithChrist.PocatelloReplyCancel

  • Ariela P - Thank you SO much for sharing this!!! Thank you! Thank you! This is just what I needed. I have been trying to come up with better ways to celebrate the true meaning with our children. This is perfect!ReplyCancel

  • Dot Eaton - Wish I knew of this when my kids were little–such a great idea!ReplyCancel

  • Craig A. Olson - Holy week is 7 days in length, not 8. This is clear only to every serious Bible student.ReplyCancel

    • Whitney - Hi Craig! We’re counting from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. 8 days of awesomeness! Thanks for your comment!ReplyCancel

  • Kristi - We traditionally have our fun family Easter egg hunt on Sat, then Easter baskets, like your Jesus baskets, waiting for the kids Sundays morning, but I Love your Easter Week idea! I’ve been looking for something like this this year, I think we’ll try it! (BTW, Love your music, and so do my 3 girls)ReplyCancel

  • Jamie - I am so grateful that you shared this. I have 3 young kids – the oldest is 4 1/2. We haven’t previously done really anything special for any of our holidays. But with my oldest getting older and having friends who talk about what they do I’ve decided it’s time to get my act together and start some traditions. However I’ve always been a bit leary of the typical worldly traditions that our family had surrounding Easter growing up. This gives me a great option to focus on what is really important during this season and to teach my children while they are young.ReplyCancel

  • M. Walker - Great ideas, thanks for sharing. My sister and I started doing oil lamps for each family member the week of Easter. We try to do acts of discipleship and earn drops of oil for the week. On Sunday we burn the lamps. These idea will add nicely with that!ReplyCancel

  • Jessi - I love this so much. I have one question. Do you avoid participating in neighborhood/city/church Easter egg hunts? I want to do this Holy Week and have already been talking to my kids about Palm Sunday this morning, but am not sure how to say “no egg hunts this year” to my 7, 5, and 3 year olds… Thanks!ReplyCancel

    • Brooke - Jessi, Whitney can answer for her family, but my family has been doing these activities for 2 years, along with her family, and we still participate in the egg hunts, etc! The Easter Bunny isn’t really a conversation we have–I don’t necessarily teach my kids that he doesn’t exist but I also don’t promote it. Does that make sense? But I’m OK with fun traditions mixed in with the Spiritual. In the end the spiritual stuff will stick better, so an egg hunt doesn’t bother me! 😉 Hope this helps!ReplyCancel

    • Whitney - Hi Jessi! Yes, do your Easter egg hunts! Holy Week doesn’t need to replace your secular traditions if you don’t want it to. It’s just a way to add Jesus into the celebrating. Have fun! xoReplyCancel

      • Jessi - Thanks ladies! We’ve never had the Easter bunny come, but a good ol’ egg hunt is always fun! My kids are loving this week so far, and they’re already anticipating Passover Thursday and Good Friday. I love it.ReplyCancel

  • Christa - What a great idea. I started doing this today with my kids. I’m also going to be sharing it on my blog. Thanks for sharing.ReplyCancel

  • wendy - Love your ideas and I am trying to adapt them to something for my older kids to be able to use this Easter. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. My kids are 19, 16 and 13.ReplyCancel

    • Whitney - Hi Wendy! With kids that old you can really get into the scriptures more- something I look forward to! They will also love the videos. Use Eric Huntsman’s book (or link) that I reference in the post. He adds a lot of historical, political, and geographical facts that older kids would find very interesting. Good luck!ReplyCancel

  • 37 Christ Centered Easter Activities for Kids - […] Holy Week: A Christ-Centered Tradition for LDS Families from Mercy River (There is only one non-Biblical scripture involved, so, in my opinion, it really isn’t only for LDS families.) […]ReplyCancel

  • Easter Traditions - […] have never been but need to go this week!  One of my favorite friends shared this post with me. We already read about Christ’s last week but I love the activities you can do with […]ReplyCancel

  • Mancelle - Happy Easter! Just had to let you know that I got your book from Amazon Canada (who knew?) and am spending my Easter Sunday culred up with tea , chocolate, the book and penicillin (strep throat..lovely). However, if you have to be sick , this is the way to do it! Have been reading you for about 11 years Rob and love your writing.ReplyCancel

  • Kim - Perhaps you’d like to put out an Easter CD and solve the problem of appalling low numbers of Easter Carols? 😉ReplyCancel

  • Andrea - Can I just tell you a big huge THANK YOU for sharing these easter week ideas with all of us? We’ve been doing similar things for 5 years, but I love your wall idea, and your song choices. You just made my life easier and my family life more fun. Happy easter week!ReplyCancel

  • emily - Thanks for sharing these ideas, I have been looking for a way to further celebrate Easter and I think this is just what I was looking for. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Dawn Berg - Thank you so much for this beautiful way to celebrate Easter Week. I have shared this on my facebook page and mentioned in my post that while the title says “For LDS Families” it is appropriate for all Christian faiths. I hope my non-member friends will accept my invitation to share this with their families and that they love for the Savior will be deepened.
    Thank you again!
    DawnReplyCancel

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