I don't know how to explain Easter to my children—Penny, 5, and William, 2. I've tried two approaches.
I've talked about it directly: "Some people killed Jesus and he died and God made him alive again."
"What does died mean?" William asked.
I tried to explain death as something that takes people away forever.
"Where is Jesus now?" Penny asked.
"Jesus is in heaven and all around us," I said.
"But where is Jesus now?"
Then Penny went to Sunday school last week, where her teachers reenacted the Passion of Jesus. I was sitting in church when, halfway through the sermon, one of the teachers brought Penny to me. She sat by my side, coloring, for the rest of the service. Her teacher later explained that when Penny had seen Jesus nailed to the cross, she stood to leave.
I asked Penny later, "What happened in Sunday school? Did you learn something about Jesus?"
Without looking at me she said, "He died. I needed to see you, Mom."
"Do you know what happened when he died?"
"I don't want to talk about it."
The direct route didn't get us far.
I've also tried the indirect approach: "Do you know what Easter is all about?" I asked William.
His eyes lit up. "Bunnies!"
"Well, kind of."
I understood his confusion. He came home from preschool with Easter eggs. A man at the coffee shop gave him a chocolate bunny. And we have an "Easter tree" on our kitchen table, with forsythia in bloom and painted wooden eggs dangling from the branches.
I thought maybe I could explain Easter using springtime symbols, and we could talk about death and rebirth, about caterpillars and butterflies or chicks hatching or crocuses in bloom.1