Chocolate-Free Easter Fun
We like having the long weekend over Easter, but all those traditional activities from Europe seem out
of place for Australians. Fluffy yellow chicks, eggs, rabbits and daffodils don't seem to fit the time of
year at all. Chocolate is delicious, but few parents who send their children to a Montessori early
childhood centre really want to stuff their preschoolers with it. So what are you going to do to
celebrate this time of year?
Undeniably, Easter is a religious holiday, whether you like this or not. Not only do you have the
Christian festival remembering the whole story about Jesus (and church-based things can go on for a
whole week, starting the Sunday before) but you also have the Jewish Passover falling about roughly
the same time. We know the parents of children who attend Montessori early childhood centres have
a range of beliefs, so you can pick and choose exactly how much of these traditional religious
elements you want to include.
Many children (and some adults) wonder why Easter isn't on the same date every year the way
Christmas is. At a Montessori centre, we encourage children to ask questions and find out things, so
to help you, here's a reasonably quick answer. The date of Easter shifts because it ultimately derives
from the Jewish calendar, which looked to the moon as a guide to the years, in much the same way
that the Islamic and Chinese calendars do (which is also why the dates of Ramadan and the Chinese
New Year shift from year to year). There's a lot of fiddly calculations that go on to get the date right,
involving whether or not it is a leap year or not and the nineteen-year cycle that synchronises the sun
and the moon, but Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon that comes after the Southern
Hemisphere's autumn equinox.
These questions, combined with the end of Daylight Savings and the shorter days gives parents a
chance to expose their children to something that's quite difficult to do even at the best Montessori
early childhood centre: astronomy. Get a good set of binoculars - choose smaller ones to suit your
child's eyes that aren't too heavy for them in best Montessori fashion - put on your warm clothes and
go out after dark to watch the moon and stars. Watching for the moon and noticing how it goes
through the phases is an easy activity. You can also learn to pick some of the easily recognisable
constellations. The Southern Cross and the Pointers appear in the southern sky all year round. Orion
the Hunter with his easily recognisable belt of three stars; bright Sirius the Dog Star; Taurus the Bull
with a red star, distinctive horns and the Pleiades cluster during are easy to find in the north and west
at nightfall during February to March. Later in the year, Scorpio the scorpion can be found in the
eastern to northern sky. A good almanac can help you recognise the other constellations and find the
planets - and can also tell you when an eclipse of the sun or moon happens.
Another activity that is a good one for the Southern Hemisphere is planting daffodils and other bulbs.
This is the best time to plant them, and it can be a fun family activity, especially as even small
children can plant bulbs without much trouble. All you need is a selection of bulbs (tulips, daffodils,
snowdrops, hyacinths, etc.) and a trowel for everyone involved in the activity. Garden centres seem to
have cottoned onto the Montessori principle of providing tools the right size for children, so picking up
child-size trowels, watering cans and rubber boots is very easy. You can simply spend an afternoon
planting bulbs, or you can combine the planting with a more traditional Easter egg hunt. The children
go out into the garden to find Easter eggs that the parents have hidden there. Where children find an
egg, they replace it with a bulb that they plant (you'll need to show them how to do this first in proper
Those who like garden-related activities and want to include a more religious tone to activities can try
making Easter gardens. An Easter garden is a miniature replica of the garden tomb that was the site
of Jesus's resurrection, decorated with symbolic flowers. These can be as simple or as elaborate as
you like. Start with a mound of dirt or damp sand in an ice cream container or on a tray, shaped into a
hill with a little cave hollowed into it. Once you have made your hill and your cave, you decorate it with
flowers and twigs for trees - and maybe some plastic animals to roam through the garden.
Traditionally, an Easter garden has three crosses at the top of the hill and a path leading from the
crosses to the cave. Traditionally, you cover the mouth of the cave with a stone then roll it aside on
Easter morning to show that the cave is empty. The flowers on the hill are red, purple and blue, while
the flowers near the cave are white and yellow.
You may also like to take a tip from the Jewish Passover to remember your family's cultural heritage
and origins. In a traditional Jewish Passover, families dress as if about to travel and eat symbolic food
while standing up as they tell the story of how the Jewish people escaped from being slaves in Egypt
and became a free people. Many churches have adopted the custom as a way of acknowledging the
Judaic roots of Christianity and also as a symbol of spiritual freedom. Secular/agnostic families can
create a their own variation by having a meal with traditional food representing their ethnic origin and
take the time to tell the story of how their families came to Australia, or any other culturally important
And have a bit of chocolate, some hot cross buns on Good Friday and eggs for breakfast on Easter
morning - they're part of the tradition, after all!
Visit Friday's Child Montessori for some more at-home activities). (Click now to get SEO for real
readers, not robots, using Semantic Writing by Rick Rakauskas.)
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