Consider celebrating Easter for everyone by learning about the history behind the holiday, partaking in cultural discussions, and by learning how to dye eggs with natural dyes.
Celebrating Easter in the Montessori Classroom with History and Activities
Easter is the most important liturgical holiday in the Christian church, signifying the resurrection of Jesus. The term Easter, however, comes from the pagan Germanic goddess, Eastre, who was celebrated at the spring equinox. It is said, that three days after his crucifixion, Jesus rose from the tomb and walked amongst his disciples.
Easter (and the holidays related to it) does not have a fixed calendar date. This is an excellent teaching moment in the elementary Montessori classroom. The dates of Easter are based on a lunisolar calendar, which uses both the phases of the moon and the time of the solar year, as is the Hebrew calendar. Elementary children can relate this to their study of the phases of the moon. The term solar year can be introduced to the upper elementary level by explaining that a solar year is the length of time the Sun takes to return to the same position along its path among the stars in relation to the equinoxes and solstices. In the beginning of the third century, it was agreed that Easter should be celebrated on the first Easter after the first full moon of the spring (vernal) equinox.
In Western cultures, the Easter season begins with Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Lent is a period of 40 days of fasting and penitence in preparation for Easter. Easter Week begins with Palm Sunday, the day Jesus entered Jerusalem before his crucifixion. Maundy (or Holy) Thursday is the day of the Last Supper, followed by Good Friday, which commemorates the crucifixion. Some churches hold a vigil on Holy Saturday, awaiting the resurrection.
When celebrating holidays in a Montessori classroom, it is a good idea to see how people around the world celebrate. It shows the children the similarities and differences that we each share and opens their eyes to new ideas. Easter is celebrated in many different ways around the world:
- US and Canada – Children color Easter eggs which are then hidden by the Easter Bunny. On Easter morning, children eagerly search for the hidden eggs and other treats and Easter Baskets. Many families go to church on Easter morning and there is a large feast of lamb or ham later that day.
- Belgium and France – The bells in churches are silenced on Maundy Thursday and ring again on Easter Sunday. Children search for eggs that have been delivered from the bells.
- Scandinavia – Easter Eggs are painted and small children dress up as witches and go door-to-door colleting candy in exchange for decorated pussy willows. This blends an old Orthodox tradition of blessing houses with willow branches and the Scandinavian Easter witch tradition.
- Netherlands and Northern Germany – Easter bonfires are lit at sunset.
The earliest dyes came from nature. Our ancestors learned that onion skins or hickory bark are good for yellow dyes. Walnut shells or coffee makes a good brown dye. Children are fascinated to learn how to make their own dyes. Older children will be pleased to know that these are not harmful to the environment. Adding vinegar to the dye will produce deeper colors and canned produce yields much paler colors. Use an enamel or Teflon-covered pan since metals may react and change the color of the dye.
What to do:
- Place the eggs in a single layer in a pan and cover with water.
- Add approximately one teaspoon of vinegar.
- Add the natural dye material. (Using more dye material will result in a more intense color).
- Bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
- If you are pleased with the color, remove the eggs from the liquid.
- If you want more intensely colored eggs, temporarily remove the eggs from the liquid. Strain the dye through a coffee filter (unless you want speckled eggs). Cover the eggs with the filtered dye and let them remain in the refrigerator overnight.
- Lavender - Purple grape juice; violet blossoms + 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- Violet Blue - Violet Blossoms; red onion skins
- Robin's Egg Blue - Red cabbage leaves
- Blue - Canned blueberries
- Green - Spinach leaves; liquid chlorophyll
- Yellow / Green - Golden delicious apple peels
- Yellow - Orange or lemon peels; carrot tops; celery seed; ground cumin
- Brown - Strong or instant coffee; black walnut shells
- Orange - Yellow onion skins
- Pink - Beets; cranberry (fruit or juice); raspberries; red grape juice; juice form pickled beets
- Red - Lots of red onion skins.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Thursday, March 20, 2008.