One thing you can pretty much count on as a Jewish parent of young children in America is questions before Christmas along the lines of, “Can we put up lights for Christmas?” Similarly, before Easter you can expect to hear, “Can we decorate eggs for Easter?” Here’s how the discussion went this year.
Asher (7 years old): Daddy, I want to decorate eggs for Easter. Can I?
Andy (47 years old): Uh, Asher, you know our holiday is Passover, right?
Asher: Sure, I know that! But can I decorate some eggs for Easter?
Andy: Actually, Easter isn’t about the Easter Bunny and decorating eggs. I mean, it is, a little, but it’s mainly a very important religious holiday for Christians.
Asher: Okay. But can I decorate some eggs for Easter?
Andy: I’ll think about it. Maybe one.
Levi (8 years old, interested in religion): Dad, what’s Easter all about?
Andy: Do you know who Jesus was? Christmas is a celebration of Jesus’s birthday. Easter is a celebration of, uh, his death and resurrection.
Levi: Resurrection? What’s that?
Andy: Umm, let’s step back just a little. Jesus was a Jewish man who lived about two thousand years ago in what is now Israel. He was a teacher, a kind of rabbi, and he was very gifted at it and become very popular. In fact, he became so popular that some of his followers thought he was the Messiah.
Levi: What’s a “messiah?”
Andy: In Jewish thinking, the Messiah is a descendant of King David who will bring all the Jews back to the Holy Land, reestablish the State of Israel, and usher in a time when all the peoples of the world will live in peace. Anyway, getting back to the Easter story, what happened to Jesus was the Romans, who controlled the Kingdom of Judea at the time, executed Jesus because they were afraid he would start a revolt among the Jews against their rule. The way they executed him was called crucifixion. They built a cross out of two big wooden planks, and they nailed him to the cross. They pounded spikes through his hands and his feet. Then they didn’t let him eat anything. He died from the nails and from hunger and thirst.
Asher: Did it hurt?
Levi: What happened then?
Andy: Well, this is the part where we get to resurrection. Some of Jesus’s followers said they saw him rise from his grave two days after he was buried, and then he went up to Heaven to join God. Actually, according to Christians, he was a part of God, but that gets really complicated, and I don’t want to go into it now. “Resurrection” means coming back to life after you are dead. That’s what Easter celebrates.
Levi (eyes growing wide): So Jesus was a zombie?
Andy: Uhh, no…