About the Author

Jen encourages women to embrace both the beauty and bedlam of their everyday lives at BeautyandBedlam.com. A popular speaker, worship leader, and author of Just Open the Door: How One Invitation Can Change a Generation, Jen lives in North Carolina with her husband, five children, and a sofa for anyone...

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  1. For me, when it comes to parts of holidays that are controversial, while we are each going to have different lines we draw, I want to see it not be lines that have us so disengaged/separated from our communities. I have a bigger problem with our reaction to Halloween (the one time we can really go out and prowl our neighborhoods!) more than Easter. I’d love to hear other people’s ideas on ways to engage connecting with people. Thoughts?

    • Even though we didn’t do the whole Trick or Treat things with our kids, we have hosted fun fall festivals at our home. That might be an option during that time of year for the neighborhood. Invite people over for some warm and cozy chili or stews, have the kids makes some fun fall crafts or even carve pumpkins and roast pumpkin seeds? That way you are engaging in the community as well as showing hospitality.

  2. Holidays have always been a special time of family gatherings. They are usually the only time that some of the family had off from work so that we could gather. We never lost focus about why we were gathering and a new dress was always a plus. We had Easter egg hunts and my kids baskets were always full of books and water guns (candy too!). The afternoon (after the Sunrise service with the community) was full of fun. But celebrating and recognizing God was a daily thing, not just on the calendar holiday. I think the problem comes when people only recognize God on those special days. That’s what the kids can’t understand. When Jesus isn’t real to them every day, why should we expect them to see Him as real 2 times a year?

  3. ‘I’ve realized that whether I put a chocolate bunny in an Easter basket will not make one bit of difference in the scope of eternity.’
    Thank you for this, Jen. As someone whose childhood was seriously lacking in tradition and the celebration of holidays (I still remember the year we didn’t have a christmas tree), I appreciate your balanced approach. Now, as an adult, I can tell you with certainty that the tooth fairy and the easter bunny are not in cahoots with the devil;)

  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I love your approach- not even sharing what you do- because it is a message that we all need to hear. Are we seeking truth? Are we seeking to glorify God in our parenting? Are we allowing Him to conform our ideas to Him? Are we parenting out of the unique personalities that He has given each one of us? If the answer to all of these is yes, then it doesn’t matter what we do or what it looks like.
    I also loved the emphasis on daily pointing our kids to Jesus! It is so true!!!
    So, thank you!

  5. As a mother of 2 I have struggled with the issues of Santa Claus, the Easter bunny, hallowe’en and the tooth fairy and believe that we as a family have no real option but not to practice them. I believe strongly that I must teach my children the importance of the truth, and for them at the moment this means rejecting fairy tale practices which have no root in the Word. This doesn’t mean that we don’t give them money when a tooth falls out, or that we don’t give each other gifts at Christmas. I feel that as believers we need to look different from the world around us and trust that the Lord will reward us for our commitment. John the Baptist was radically separate from his community but it made no difference to his ministry when the Lord came upon him with power. This is my prayer for my children.

    • Beth, I completely agree. For us, that was the same conclusion. And honestly it’s hard. Not with the kids, they are fine with it. But, it’s hard because even a trip to the store around Christmas time is difficult when all of society is telling me that I’m a bad mom for “robbing my kids of their childhood” in not practicing “Santa Claus.” Even a lot of fellow Christians make these comments. I was really saddened at a church we attended once that when my kids went to children’s church, they were asked repeatedly what did Santa bring them. I have found that if you do anything outside the norm, you are opening up yourself to attacks about it, and that’s the part that saddens me. I don’t make judgmental comments about whether or not other people bring Santa, etc. into their homes, but I still have to endure those awful comments from others who aren’t respectful of my choice that just happens to be the minority.

  6. My husband is a pastor, so when the boys were growing, our Easter weekend schedule was busy with Good Friday service as well as a sunrise service, church breakfast and services. We never made a fuss over Santa, the Easter Bunny or Halloween and we were even “crazy” enough to home school for several years, so people thought we were a little off anyway. But we never “preached” this as these were things God laid on our hearts. We felt it was important that Sunday be set aside for celebrating the resurrection and we chose to not add in something that seemingly doesn’t have anything to do with it. My husband was pretty unavailable on Sunday morning to have a fun time with it anyway. We did choose to do an egg hunt on Saturday and did do the baskets, that were sitting outside their bedroom door Saturday morning. The boys got their sweet tooth fix and never seemed to care that they got it a day early. Then Sunday was focused on Christ.

    I loved what you told us by not telling … “My final decision? It really doesn’t matter to your family.” We all come from such a variety of traditions and beliefs. I think this is another opportunity to be quiet before the Lord and seek what He desires for our own individual family. Too often we are trying to fit in. Only God knows what our particular family needs and what works for another family may not be what is best for ours. Thank you for reminding us that this is a daily journey….focused on Him….listening to Him….following Him.

    • Thank you for your constant ministry as well. As a pastor’s wife, I know that your holiday times (and not just Easter) are filled with continual flexibility and putting others’ schedules first, thank you for being available to let the Lord use you.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your tradition Barb. My husband and I have been debating for many years how to celebrate with the traditional egg hunt/basket idea and not get it wrapped up with Easter Day and celebrating Jesus’ resurrection. This might be just the right idea for us.

      Jen, This was a wonderful article. Thank you for encouraging us all to figure out what’s right for our own families in such a gentle non-judgemental way.

  7. When my daughter with Down Syndrome was younger, we would do egg hunts and the like (especially at church). My husband decided a couple years ago that she was too old for that. I have been doing Easter Cookies with her for the last few years and I am looking at trying to do the Resurrection Rolls with my 5th and 6th grade Sunday School class this year.

  8. The whole idea of the Easter Bunny always bothered me, because it really took away from the most important part of Christ’s gift to us. So, when my children were young we adopted the tradition of the “resurrection eggs” It was an advent calendar of a sort. There are many examples on the internet. I still bought my kids little treats, because let’s face it, Easter candy rocks.

    For Christmas, I let my kids believe in Santa. I don’t see a problem with a little bit of sparkle and excitement in their eyes. But I did explain to them that Santa was honoring Christ’s birth by bringing gifts. When he brought three special presents it was to represent what the Wise Men gave to Christ. When they found out the truth, I still told them there was a Santa, and that it was me. I was honoring my love of Christ by giving my children special gifts.

    Some people would disagree with my tactics and traditions, but when you have Christ in your home every day and attend church weekly with your family those children still know WHO is most important.

  9. I have always loved Easter and my mother’s Easter traditions of chocolate egg hunts, church, paska, a big family dinner with lots of wonderful people around to help us celebrate was a big thing for me. Though our family is broken up now and we no longer all see each other my husband and I carry out those traditions with our smaller family: egg hunts for young ones, a Good Friday service at our church, an Easter wreath bread I love to make (like paska but braided) with colored Easter eggs nestled in it, a family dinner we sometimes invite friends who are at ‘loose ends’ to…
    It’s important for my well being to have times to celebrate and be with people who love me and treat my son with appropriateness where he can know that he is loved for who he is and, hopefully from our own ability to forgive, live and love grow to be the kind of man who is happy and kind.
    I see that we have not raised a son who is bitter because of being expected to accept certain angers or abuses and I pray he will always understand the boundaries of loving and acceptance while still having the ability to set those boundaries in a positive way that allows for also being protective to those who will rely on him (his wife, children).
    We live in a mixed up world and our faith needs to help us to grow and love to create some peace and stability in ourselves and in our homes and communities.

    • It’s special that you have continued on some of those neat traditions for your son. Traditions truly can be a balm for family unity.

      (And the braided bread with eggs in the middle sounds SO NEAT! I’d love to see a picture.)

  10. Our little church is Messianic in its roots, and our pastor is an expository Bible student. In recent years, our family (my husband and I – the kids are grown with families) have chosen to recognize Passover rather than Easter.

    There is a passage in Numbers 22 involving judgment that fell on Israel. It’s the story of Balaam and Balak, and Balaam’s inability to curse Israel, no matter how much Balak offered him; but he recommended to Balak that Moabite women be encouraged to seduce and intermarry with Israelites, thus “mixing” their gods and religion with Israel’s. (see Numbers 25) This mixing was displeasing to God, and when Phineas took a spear and ran it through a couple to avenge his God, God made a special covenant with him for his devotion. It is interesting that the Moabite woman’s and Israeli man’s names were mentioned in the original text. His name meant purity and delightful. Hers – and she was the daughter of a tribal leader – meant deception.

    In Revelation 2, the church at Pergamos has this against them – they have allowed the false worship all around them to infiltrate their theology. They were guilty of “mixing” with the world.

    In 313-500 AD, Constantine took over Rome and Christians were being persecuted and an attempt was being made to wipe them out. He found, however, that the harder he tried to destroy them, the stronger the Church became. (The persecuted church.) His plan, therefore, was to make Christianity the state religion, to require everyone to become a Christian (from which he built the Catholic church), and he mixed Christianity with paganism, celebrating pagan gods and blending the two together into one fabric.

    And that is what the church has grown up with. We love our traditions. We do. I do. And the traditions we grew up with as children bring us such comfort and… constancy… that we are loathe to let them go, and we want to bring that comfort and joy to our own children because we love them. That said, even when our kids were at home, we’d begun to pull back from the cultural holidays. It didn’t feel right any more. We explained our hearts to our kids, and we all went on. And somehow they survived without being emotionally scarred or unbalanced. In fact, they have been and are missionaries.

    So the question is…are my traditions more important to me than my relationship with an absolute Holy and Righteous God? And do I desire a special covenant for myself, for taking a stand for purity in my faith? We do serve a God who knows our hearts. He understands. But that doesn’t change that He doesn’t change. His desire is purity and a separate and “peculiar” people.

    The Church was created out of Gentiles in order to provoke Israel to jealousy, because we had something they didn’t. Jesus! But they aren’t jealous. They look at us and our “mixing” and they don’t take us seriously at all.

    We can honor Christ’s sacrifice and His glory by celebrating Passover, we are still celebrating, and it’s God’s way. Our kids will all grow up with a stronger understanding of their faith, and a greater ability to withstand the world’s pressures.

    • I’m so glad you said that!!! We’re not jewish, but are learning to celebrate biblical Holidays instead of cultural ones as well. It’s crazy because in the church we’re outsiders… I wish the feasts were more mainstream.

      Thank you for your testimony!

    • Some of my close friends go to a Christian church with Messianic roots as well. Yours sounds very similar. Some of the most meaningful traditions are ones you are instilling in your family right now. Last year, our evangelical church had a Jewish man, who has declared Jesus as Savior, lead our congregation in the Passover feast. It was powerful.
      Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you a million times over for this post! I love, love, love your last 3 paragraphs! We are Messianic too.

      For us, the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and the Tooth Fairy were part of our faith being rocked as a child and the trust in our parents being broken, which ultimately led to our trust in our Heavenly Father being a struggle for us both even as adults. Of course, there was more to it than mythical characters, but we decided to teach the Truth to our children. After dissecting the Word for ourselves, that led us to the Messianic movement. We celebrate the Lord’s Feasts because they are Truth and they are His Story, and they are constant reminders of His goodness, faithfulness, and love of His people. And because He commanded his people to observe them. The blessing is that it enriches our faith and relationship with Him so deeply and we pray our children will always love the traditions of their Father like we loved the traditions of the world, and they would mourn the loss of them like we mourned the loss of our worldly ones.

    • We are not messianic, but our church has recently begun studying (and sometimes observing in our way) many of the feasts and traditions of our roots (because whether we are messianic or not, Judaism is in the roots of all Christians). I love your not here, well said! I completely agree that we should strive for purity and holiness in our lives, “untainted by the world”

  11. When my children were small, I struggled with the choices of introducing Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, too. I remember how sad I was when I found out as a young girl that they weren’t real. But I chose to keep those traditions for the fun they present, and to parallel those festivities with the true Christian meaning of the holidays we celebrate. Three of my four boys are grown now, and we have enjoyed many holidays sharing both the fun of the Easter Bunny and Santa Clause with deep respect for the traditions of commemorating Jesus’ birth and His death and resurrection.

  12. My husband and I are currently pregnant with our first child! She will be born in June. We have given lots of thought to how we are going to celebrate the holidays. As a child I personally was taught to believe in the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and the Tooth Fairy. However, by the age of five I stopped believing in them altogether. I used to get so frustrated when my parent’s encouraged my younger sister to believe in them. I felt like they were lying to her. It created a bit of bitterness in my young heart. Now that my husband and I are expecting our first child we have decided to focus our daughter’s attention on the real meaning of the holidays. Of course we will teach her about the different holiday traditions, but we will not tell her they are real.

    We have nothing against Easter Egg hunts or coloring eggs! In fact, I can’t wait to do that with my daughter. We just won’t be lying to her about how the eggs got there. haha I also, plan on making Resurrection Rolls with her! I think that’s a great little craft that teaches her about the real meaning of Easter!

    • Congratulations! Doing activities like coloring eggs, making Christmas stockings are wonderful activities to do with your children, creating memories and providing opportunities to talk about what your family truly believes about each holiday. Enjoy being a mom! It is the greatest blessing!

  13. I struggled with the idea of Santa Claus for a long time but was actually able to USE it this year to teach my son about Jesus.
    He was recently diagnosed with Asperger’s and as any parent with an Asperger’s affected child will tell you….putting faith in something that cannot be SEEN is very, very difficult for my son. He thinks very concretely.
    This year, he was talking about Santa because he really does believe the same Santa we take pictures with every year is the “real” one (I mean, for goodness sake….he has the official Santa ring on! EVERY YEAR!!).
    I was able to tell him, “Santa is kind of like God. You know Santa is working hard in the North Pole. And you will see all his hard work Christmas morning. But you only get to see Santa in person once a year. It’s the same thing with God. God is working hard in heaven getting things ready for us. You see his hard work around you all the time. But you won’t see Him in person until that one special day when He comes to earth to show us His glory. Until then, we just keep on believing what He tells us in the Bible and living for Him.”
    I’ll be darned……the connection was made!!
    Now….my son will soon grow out of the make believe of Santa. But the “concept” was connected. And that is HUGE.

  14. I’m on the big kid end of this season of motherhood. My kids are 18, 19 & 21 now and we played along with the Santa/Easter Bunny stuff. But that wasn’t the message we taught them. Each of my kids are still intact THEOLOGICALLY. We’ve always celebrated the holidays for the truth found in scripture. Playing along with old fashioned traditions isn’t as destructive as some might say.
    As with anything, having a REAL RELATIONSHIP with Christ is what is most important. I love the fun ways created to teach young children HE IS RISEN on Easter. Same with HAPPY BIRTHDAY Jesus at Christmastime. So many cool ways to teach scripture.

  15. Great message, great presentation, Jennifer. Secular holiday traditions are always “issues” for those who want to be more than Sunday Christians. You gave us all more to digest, and yes, always, always, always point to Jesus! Amen!

  16. Remember that legalism can lead to a self-righteous spirit…I think children can easily celebrate the traditions along with the rich liturgy of Christ’s resurrection!

  17. I too had the privilege of having four children in five years…crazy, wonderful days. My baby is now ready to head off to college in a few short months. Easter was always special not because we hid eggs, gave the children chocolate rabbits or bought new spring clothes…which some years we did. But because our children knew what Easter was really all about. One tradition was to fill plastic eggs with symbols surrounding Easter and then discussing what each item meant. For example, one egg would contain a nail, another a piece of linen, a thorn, etc., leaving one empty to represent the empty tomb. Having been raised in conservative Christian homes, my husband and I were not brought up with Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny and neither were our children. We didn’t hide any of the secular traditions..our children figured it out on their own what is real and what is not. Jesus is and always will be real.

  18. Have any of you ever looked into the history of Easter? It is not mentioned in the Bible, why do we celebrate a pagan festival? We are called to celebrate Passover which Jesus himself participated in. The church refers to it as “the last supper” It has been about 10 years now since I’ve celebrated Easter, if we truly want to see Jesus and show our children the beauty of the Gospel take the time to understand WHY we celebrate what we celebrate. One day I finally took the time to read up on these “Christian” festivals and I was quite surprised at what I found. ~Just food for thought.~

  19. Terrific ideas!! As a grandmother, I can look back and see how important holiday traditions are to my family and how they are passed on and improved upon. There are so many lovely ideas! As I read, an idea popped into my head. Could Christians take the oppurtunity to BRING the Good News to homes on Halloween, rather than TAKE treats?? Just a passing thought!! Thank you for so many good ideas!!

  20. It seemed so much easier to direct our kids’ thinking when they were younger; Resurrection Eggs were a year in and out activity we looked forward to (and we made our own. I bet we STILL have a set in our attic).

    Easter for us was a coming together of family who lived in various cities and states. So, equally important to traditions of faith were/are simple family traditions. Yes, we also had Easter baskets often filled with a mixture of practical items and faith conversation starters.

    Intention is the key and I guess that takes shape in different ways for different families; you’ve given us a LOT of ways to consider how that might play out (both here and with your link).

    Thanks, Jen :).

  21. Great Blog post.
    I had a Catholic upbringing but now attend a Non Denom. Curch.
    As a child there was great importanace on “Holy Week” and to this day I reconize it. During Easter week and on Thursday we make our own Easter pizza. This tradition comes from my childhood Italian friends who make this type of pizza which is full of meats and in preperation to eat on Easter. Since my children are not a fan of all the lunchmeat that is used I go the route of a regular pizza pie. We make homemade pizza sauce and each child creates their own pizza. As we are creating our pizza we talk about the Last Supper and I use the sauce as an example of how Christ shed His blood for us, the bread (crust) we place the sauce on as the bread of life and during dinner a reading of scripture about the last supper. The family looks forward to this every year and of course we have family over to join in our fun.
    -Colleen G.

  22. I suppose you just have to ask your self would it have been in “good taste” for the disciples to have had an easter egg hunt while Jesus was dying on the cross?

  23. We did Easter baskets and Easter egg hunts when I was growing up. We knew the true meaning and focus of the holidays (Easter, Christmas, etc.) I don’t remember it ever being a big deal one way or another.

    Now my kids know about things like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the tooth fairy as fun stories, but not as real people. We talk about the stories and histories behind the legends and symbols.

    We also live in Africa which means that no one here talks about any of those things, which might make a difference. (ie, maybe it’s just not such a big deal to us b/c we aren’t always surrounded by holiday things.)

    Since I have such fond memories of holidays, I plan to continue to do similar things with my kids.

  24. I meant to add that I never did Lent or Advent growing up. But now I’ve started doing them with my kids, and really enjoy the extended focus on the true meanings of the holidays.

  25. Don’t know what a bunny has to do with eggs… it’s a fun tradition here, anyway. But the eggs themselves are a symbol of birth and renewal — also a symbol of spring’s bounty and thankfulness for the end of a long winter.

  26. I like combining both the religious and the commercial into holidays. I don’t think having both is a problem. I see the problem in only having the commercial and not the religious.
    My favorite Christmas card is one where Santa is praying before Jesus’ manger. What a great way to show what’s really important and yet combine the two!