Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Why Eggs?

Do your children know why we eat eggs at Easter?
Chocolate eggs have long been a prerequisite at Easter time and a huge source of revenue for the high street. What is their significance and why have they become a symbol of this great feast, there is nothing in the bible about eggs or egg hunting. The biblical symbols of Easter are neither pretty or charming . A cross, nails, whips and tombs would not look enticing in a shop window, certainly not as decorative as eggs, rabbits and other springtime symbols. Eggs, despite being hijacked by commerce, do have a Christian meaning. In pagan Europe eggs were used as a sign of fertility and new life as they celebrated the long awaited arrival of spring after the long , dark winters of the northern hemishere. The early Christians understood the full meaning of what the pagans had only glimpsed. Springtime growth, the return of the sun and eggs all remind us of the hope of new life , the resurrection that we  can all experience in Christ: the essence of Easter.
In an article in Idea  - the magazine of the Evangelical Alliance, it was reported that a certain supermarket chain had to correct itself twice when making assertions regarding the meaning of Easter. First it reported that it was about the birth of Jesus, it corrected this to 're birth' before finally conceeding that Easter is about the resurrection of Jesus. There is obviously confusion and misunderstanding about this historical event that should knock us side ways and change us forever.

So - do your children know why we eat eggs at Easter time? Do your childrens' friends? Or your neighbours?

Maybe we should tell them.

Egg Activities.

I just discovered The Real Easter Egg Company from whom you can buy fairtrade chocolate eggs to give as gifts. On the box is the story of the real meaning of Easter.

Years ago I bought a set of Resurrection Eggs - plastics eggs that conrtain  small symbols that tell the Easter story. On her blog The Vicars Wife gives instruction on how to make your own. They are a good tool for an egg hunt and storytime combined.

Egg Rolling - a game that reminds us of the stone being rolled away

Egg Hunting - goes with out saying!

Monday, April 25, 2011

50 Days of Easter.

Easter is actually a season which lasts for 50 days. In his book' Living Easter through the Year' John Pritchard says

'We travel long and hard through Lent and Holy Week. The build up of spiritual pressure is immense. .......... And then comes Easter day- the most astonishing day in the history of the world. The Lord of history erupts into his own creation, shattering our closed minds and throwing open the windows of eternity. Christ is risen! There's ecstasy for a moment, sheer,wild, abandoned ecstasy.
And then we have a bank holiday.'

I  too feel the disappointment that Easter is over so quickly, unrecognised except for the queues of Bank Holiday traffic. Last year we decided to celebrate for the whole season - I planned a variety of activities, three or four for each week until Pentecost and wrote them out on slips of paper which I hid in a plastic eggs  suspended on a wreath I had hung on our veranda. The eggs were numbered and we opened one every Sunday and did the activities suggested throughout the following week. I kept it simple , sometimes a memory verse to learn, an Easter movie or book suggestion, an outing, a picnic breakfast to watch the sunrise.

It was fun and I want to do it again this year and invite you , my readers, to join me.  Please share your ideas for activities, resources, crafts, food, books, films, outings - anythings that helps to  keep the joy and thrill of Easter at the centre of our focus over the next weeks. Here are a few of the things that our family did last year - to give you the idea of what I mean.

Baked Greek Easter bread
Watched the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Miracle Maker.
Made a table water fountain and learnt Revelations7:17
Sunrise breakfast picnic
Went shopping for new clothes
Told jokes at the dinner table - there is, apparently, an old  tradition that the preacher would tell jokes in his evening sermon on Easter day and have the congregation roaring with laughter

Please post your comments and suggestions here and lets live Easter for the next 50 days!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

An Angel in the Garden.

'Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen!'


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Good Friday Bread Making and Construction.

I enjoy making bread at Easter time.

This year I am using 'Bread' by Liz Herbert for all my Easter bread recipes. My husband gave it to me for Christmas. It is a Women's Institute publication and  is proving to be a very  practical and usable cook book. All the recipes have worked out well so far, I have just made Hot Cross Buns and plan to do Chocolate Brioche for Sunday morning breakfast.

The children have just finished making our Easter garden. This is a regular Good Friday activity for us. I think that it must be an English tradition as it is new to most of my American and New Zealand friends. I remember making miniature gardens in seed trays as a child, but my family , under supervision from their father, construct a small replica garden outside. Wielding saws and digging tools has more appeal to the boys than  dainty, crafty mini gardens!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

More Egg Decorating Ideas.

 We have had great fun blowing and decorating eggs. I followed instructions on ehow for blowing eggs and then we decorated with poster and acrylic paints, glitter and sequins. We also made dye with food colouring which gives the eggs a lovely pastel colour.
We had fritata for lunch after all the blowing!

Maundy Thursday

Bread and wine on our Easter table.

Last night we shared our usual Maundy Thursday meal with friends. I cooked Lamb Shanks braised in Red Wine with Rosemary and Garlic served with mashed potatoes and green vegetables ( asparagus and green salad). Our friends brought dessert. In the centre of the table was the Seder plate containing  the traditional  symbolic foods for Passover. On the plate is a lamb bone, green vegetable, roasted egg, bitter herbs, salt water and haroset which is a mixture of chopped apple and nuts. Each item represents an aspect of the Exodus story - the story of God's  redemption of the Israelite people from Egypt.
  • The lamb bone - the sacrificial lamb that God ordered the Israelites to eat before they left, the blood smeared over their doorposts ensured that the angel of death passed over them. Jesus is our sacrificial lamb ensuring that God passes over our sins.
  • Haroset is a symbol of the mortar used by the slaves to build in Egypt.
  • The green vegetable is a symbol of spring , the Israelite slaves experienced new life as we do in Christ.
  • A roasted egg represents the temple sacrifice
  • The bitter herbs represent the bitterness of slavery and the salty water, the tears of the slaves. Our enslavement is to sin.
Before we ate we read the Exodus story and the story of the Last Supper from the bible and then we shared bread and wine ( red grape juice for the children) around the table . It is a real treat for the children to drink their grape juice from real wine glasses!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pysanky Eggs

Every Easter we try to come up with different ways to festoon our home and decorate eggs. This year I discoved Pysanky eggs while reading this site, they are amazingly intricate and  beautifully dyed eggs from the Ukraine. The design is drawn with wax before the eggs are repeatedly diped in dye to create the pattern. The Learn Pysanky site also offers colouring pages. I did not think that I would be able to easily find the supplies here in Cebu so we opted for colouring page eggs! Much easier  for children too. They looked lovely and it was a restful activity for a morning with friends.

After we were finished my daughter cut the egg shape out and glued two designs back to back and then hung them in a door way, they would also look good hanging on a branch.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week - the most intense week in the Christian calender, when we can live through the events of Jesus' death and resurrection - the events that lead to  resurrection and life for us. We read through the biblical account together this morning after breakfast and I was struck by the hightened level of excitement in the villages and in Jerusalem - they were busy preparing for passover, it was a holiday and a celebration. Housewives were frantically cleaning, the streets were crowded with visitors and the drains running with slaughtered lambs blood. Jerusalem was preoccupied as the  real world drama begins to unfold.Only Jesus  knew what was to come.
Buying our palaspas
Palm Sundaes for dessert with homemade coconut ice cream!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Palm Sunday

This Sunday is Palm Sunday when we remember Jesus' purposeful  and deliberate entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey , hailed as King along the way he went to meet His death. It is the end of Lent and the beginning of Holy Week. Many churches give out crosses made of palm leaves at the Sunday service today , here in the Philippines we will buy palaspas which are elaborately  hand woven palm branches. They are  for sale along the road sides . If your church does not follow the tradition here are some  instructions for making them at home. (This site asks for a small donation )

I enjoy cooking and believe that food is an integral part of celebration and worship and this year I have been introducing some ideas into our menus that symbolize or illustrate the festival being celebrated, just for fun. For dessert on Sunday we are going to  have Palm sundaes .  Here in the Philippines we have an abundance of very cheap coconut and I regret that I have not used it often enough when cooking. So I decided to have a ago at  making fresh coconut icecream for our sundaes using coconut cream I made myself as described in the recipe. It was not too hard to do at all .  Palm Sunday is also known as Fig Sunday because of the story in Mark and Matthews gospel that Jesus wanted to eat figs on his way into Jerusalem. In England it is traditional to serve Fig pudding , so you could make this your Sunday lunch dessert.

Shortbread palm biscuits ready for Sunday.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Lenten Bread.

Delia Smith , in her Complete Cookery Course quotes Elizabeth David on yeast:

'In Chausers England one of the names for yeast or barm was goddisgoode 'bicause it cometh of the grete grace of God'. These words simply imply a blessing. To me that is just what it is. It is also mysterious, magical. No matter how familiar its action may become nor how successful the attempts to explain it in terms of chemistry and to manufacture it by the ton, yeast still to a certain extent retains its mystery'

When I read those words my first thoughts were 'not unlike God really', who also retains some mystery no matter how far we go to try to explain and understand Him. I enjoy working with yeast and making bread and I wish I did it more often. During Lent and Easter I especially find myself thinking about baking bread, it is so symbolic of this time of year; the mystery , the hidden leaven that changes everything, the bread that represents His body , the bread of life. I am sure it is for all these reasons that  many cultures make special bread  at Easter time.

Today we made Pretzels, which are associated with lent because of the shape. They look like hands folded in prayer.  The story of their origin has several versions , apparently they were first made by monks  from scraps left over from the monastery bread and given to children as reward for saying their prayers and to the poor and hungry who visited the monastery. The shape reminds us of one of the purposes of Lent -faithfulness in prayer. And they taste good when sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Mothering Sunday

The fourth Sunday of Lent is Mothering Sunday. The day has an interesting history , the origins are unclear but it became the custom for young people who worked in service i.e. as servants in big houses to  be given time to visit their 'mother church' , in other words to worship with  the community where they were born and to visit their parents and particularly their mothers. It was known as to go a - mothering and gradually became known as Mothering Sunday. They would often take a gift of a simnel cake which was an opportunity for young women to show off their cooking skills. A  simnel cake is a rich fruit cake with a layer of marzipan through the middle, it was usually saved to eat at Easter as such richness would not have been permitted during Lent. Nowadays simnel cakes are usually made for Easter Day. The tradition of having a day to show appreciation for our mothers , to celebrate and give thanks for all they do has continued and I am glad - saying thank you is important and mothering can often feel like a thankless task. I appreciate the sacrifice, effort and commitment of my own mother and I appreciate being reminded to let her know!

There is sometimes a degree of bitterness vented over the celebration of Mothering Sunday and certainly public celebrations can be insensitive and thoughtless towards those for whom painful memories surface. It is important to recognise that  not everyone has happy memories or a good relationship with their mothers and for some motherhood is equated with loss and grief. Somehow there needs to balance between the celebration of special women in our lives, be they mothers, grandmothers , godmothers or motherly women friends and tenderness towards families who hurt. The church has a responsibility to be a mother to those families.

'Repent then, and turn to God, so that your sins maybe wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord'  Acts3:19

The fourth Sunday of Lent is also known as Refreshment Sunday or Laetare Sunday. The word Laetare means rejoice: it is a day for  the relaxation of Lenten disciplines, to look forward to Easter, which is not far off now, and to enjoy the burgeoning spring which hints at the new life that is soon to come. How appropriate this seems to me , we all need refreshment , not just mothers , but mothers do, at times, especially need refreshment. And those mothers  and would be mothers who feel pain, hurt and loss need, more than most , the refreshing touch of God's love and healing.

      'A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed'       Proverbs:11:25

The colour for Refreshment Sunday is pink, the colour of joy.

I am told that I am about to served the biggest breakfast I have ever had! My Mothering Sunday flowers came yesterday, aren't they lovely?.