Children that attend Compassion projects come from many different cultures and backgrounds, so it’s important that project staff do everything they can to maintain the truth about significant dates in the Christian calendar.
Even though the Easter egg itself has Christian symbolism – for instance, the theme of new life with Christ’s resurrection – the emergence of the Easter bunny can distract us from the real central figure of this precious festival. Ana Rafaela Santos from Compassion Brazil writes about how some projects in her country see it as an essential part of their ministry to teach the real meaning of Easter.
At the end of Carnival, the stores in Brazil suddenly become awash with colour as chocolate Easter eggs fill the supermarket shelves. Children become euphoric with such colourful and delicious chocolates. People wearing Easter bunny costumes walk through the stores playing with the children and, of course, offering chocolate eggs. Leading up to the appearance of that special rabbit, commercials on television are trying their best to sell push their products.
Christians will inevitably differ on the significance of the Easter bunny, but all will agree that the message of the cross of Jesus Christ mustn’t be choked out by the commerce and capitalism of chocolate.
“Every year, the difficultly is the same: to teach the little children that the real Easter is not the rabbit and chocolate egg”, says Maria do Carmo, teacher of Timóteo Child Development Centre near Sao Paulo. “When we ask them, ‘what is Easter?’ they answer immediately: Easter Eggs!” Maria, who has worked at the project since 2009, enjoys explaining Easter to the little ones. “I love to teach the truth.”
A few weeks before Easter Day, the project will begin to teach the children about the real meaning. Using puppets, Maria do Carmo explains that the chocolate eggs are made only for selling and for profit. They don’t have anything to do with Easter and sometimes they keep people from the focus. The goal is to make children aware that they may receive some chocolate, but this is not what Easter celebrates, and there is something much greater to celebrate.
Maria sometimes reminds the children, “The Easter bunny didn’t die for you!” Using this illustration she will begin to unpack the real meaning of Easter from Moses to the cross.
The director of the project, Marcia da Silva, created a special event for Easter. They rehearsed a special choreography using music about who Jesus is. One of the lyrics tells the story of Jesus, from His birth to His resurrection.
They invited parents to come to the church on the Easter Sunday service and, to her surprise, many parents that had never been at the project before showed up to watch their children dance. “It was a great time,” says Marcia. “The children were happy because their parents were there to see them. They had an important time together”. In total, 102 children were involved.
More than 1,700 miles away from Sao Paulo state, in Barra do Corda, a small city with a population of 82,000, another project in the middle of the northeast region takes a similar approach. Even in this impoverished region the commercial aspect of Easter has suffocated the message of Christ and His passion.
To celebrate Easter and to clarify the real meaning of it, Betel Child Development Centre opened on a Saturday with a special class to talk about Easter. The project´s staff invited the children’s parent to get involved. The focus was to talk about the Holy Lamb and to help them understand that the right animal to represent Easter is the lamb and not a rabbit. The project decorated the church with colourful paper and images of lambs.
“We decided to make them understand that it is about Christ. Many children had never heard about it before. It was a surprise for them,” says Project Director, Maria do Socorro.
The project served chocolate cake and juice to make the first Easter at the project unforgettable for the children. The teachers also created little souvenirs to give to the children: a paper box decorated with lambs and filled with chocolates.
“But not chocolate eggs!” laughed Maria.
Written By Ana Rafaela Santos, Brazil Field Communications Specialist