One weekend in February, just before Lent, we were out in our yard doing some yard work. We have a little peach tree we planted when we moved into this house, one that last year was finally big enough to supply us with a cobbler’s worth of peaches.
Since late winter is the time to prune fruit trees, we were cutting off branches that were already swelling with buds. The kids and I decided to bring some of the branches inside to ‘force’ into blooming, and there you have it—an Easter Tree was born!
Set in a large jar of water in the kitchen, those dormant branches slowly began to blossom and unfurl. We decorated them with little Easter eggs and enjoyed a magical early coming of spring as Lent began, and that familiar story of resurrection and rebirth was told at church and in storybooks at home.
I had first heard about forcing tree blossoms in the sweet little book A Time To Blossom by Tovah Martin, which beautifully shares seasonal activities to do with children in the garden throughout the year.
Forcing blooming branches can be done with most any sort of flowering tree or shrub—such as apple, plum, cherry or pear trees. Other pretty flowering spring branches include forsythia and pussy willow—which you can usually find at the local grocery florist around early spring.
Soon, Palm Sunday saw palm fronds and crosses gathered up at church, slipped into pockets and purses, and brought home. I’ve been collecting icons for a few years now, and it’s a routine for us now to place the palm crosses in behind the icons and take the old crosses from last year down to bury in the garden.
My youngest is two, and for him any excuse is a good excuse to dig in the dirt. And here’s hoping that a little holy water infused palm works miracles for uninspired peonies!
These little moments with my children, forging new traditions and using the church year as a family rhythm, is so special to me—but it’s taking practice. I didn’t grow up practicing Lent—or Advent. Or know much about feast days or holy days. In many ways, I am learning along with the kids, and its been really special for us all.
This year, to get us a little more into the Easter spirit, we decided to make a spring/Easter altar in our living room. As impressive as it may sounds, in reality it was just the top of a little dresser in our entryway.
The altar was inspired by the concept of seasonal altars used in Waldorf education, which also celebrates nature and the festivals of the year. We used things we had around the house to create our altar, and part of the fun was the gathering of the items. Some of the items we chose were favorite children’s books (we used Tasha Tudor’s A Time to Keep which is a wonderful book about the celebrations of the year with a homespun flavor) stuffed animals, papier mache eggs, laminated saint cards, wooden eggs, bowls and baskets and a battery operated candle.
In short, everything on our altar is child-friendly and able to survive little curious hands and capture a child’s imagination. And not only is using items around the house inexpensive to do—it also helped the kids look at things they already have with fresh eyes. We found ourselves asking, “What things in the toy box remind of us spring or Easter? Where do we see the Easter story written or illustrated or referred to? What colors, objects, or tokens remind us of Easter?”
It was a lot of fun for us to create these little vignettes, and I imagine we will keep it up throughout the seasons. These little projects are learning experiences for us all, and are working themselves into the rhythm of our lives by bring the liturgical year out of the church and into our home.
How does your home reflect the Easter season?