The Holiday and the Holyday
The Story Of Easter
By Aileen Fisher; illustrated by Stephano Vitale
As Easter 2015 approaches, I am always looking for picture books for young readers that emphasize both the holiday and holyday components of Easter.
For young children growing up today whose families celebrate Easter, perhaps it is harder than ever to find picture books that combine both.
The Easter Bunny, rebirth and spring, dominate the cultural landscape in April, and that is not necessarily a bad thing for children. But, for those families for whom Easter is the central holyday of the Christian calendar, they are looking for something more.
And Aileen Fisher’s “The Story of Easter” is one picture book that offers that “moreness.”
Originally published in 1968, her book opens with the central theme of “rejoicing.” Nature, it appears is reflecting the greatest holiday of the year for Christians as it signifies their belief in the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Ms. Fisher and the elegantly subdued pastel folk art feel of Stephan Vitale combine completely in a depiction of the events in the life of Jesus leading up to Easter, whose events can be a difficult thing to present to very young children. Ms. Fisher, I think, does a fine job here.
Her picture book also provides an interesting overview of the spring festivals that preceded Easter, as people celebrated the renewal of life from winter. I can certainly identify with that after our “winterus horribilus.”
“After the Christian religion spread
to many lands, the joy of Jesus’
Resurrection became mingled with
the joy of the spring festival. Both
celebrations stood for new life. Both
stood for new hope in the hearts of people”
Ms. Fisher gives a wonderful thousand years perspective on many of the symbols of Easter such as the egg. It takes its significance of new life from cultures as ancient as Persia and China. Plus the egg is also ….”one of the ritual foods eaten at Passover.”
From Ukranian and Polish dyed eggs to the beauties that Carl Peter Faberge created, the Easter egg takes on a whole new history. Did you know that Sephardic Jews invented a way to dye eggs using ONION SKINS? Who knew?
And the Germans, Ms. Fisher relates, were the first to initiate the Easter Egg Tree. Poked holes in an egg shell with the liquid blown through, then dyed or painted and hung on a tree or bush, is a tradition that we have done with our children ourselves for years. Try using quince branches in a pot to hang the eggs from. It blooms beautifully and usually in time for Easter!
Traditional Easter egg hunts are here of course.
And the tradition of new Christians baptized at Easter with white robes as a sign of renewal, perhaps is also reflected in the wearing of new Easter outfits?
Sunrise Easter services and lilies blooming all announce to your young reader in this great picture book, a very interesting perspective on the history, holyday and holiday combination of celebrations that make up Easter.
Ms. Fisher’s book is an entertaining and informative prelude to the old saying concerning Easter Sunday – “The sun dances as it rises on Easter morning.”