When my kids were small, I wasn’t a big fan Easter baskets full of candy. It’s not that I didn’t allow my kids to have candy. I did. But they’d had candy, lots of candy, at Halloween and Christmas and Valentine’s Day. For them, candy was the ordinary way to celebrate an ordinary holiday. Easter, Pascha, is the Feast of Feasts, the Holy Day of Holy Days. For Pascha, I wanted them to have Easter basket treats that were sweeter than candy, treats that would last longer and mean more.
So, every year, I packed a big Pascha basket full of honey bunnies and cheese and sausage balls and other treats to take to church for the big party after the midnight service of Pascha. And every year, I filled an Easter basket for each child to find when they woke up in the morning on Pascha. I did everything I could to make the baskets special, because the day was special.
I realized pretty quickly that the baskets that are sold as Easter baskets are too flimsy to use year after year. So I decided to get large, sturdy baskets that would last. Baskets that could be used by my children, and then by their children. You can find heirloom quality baskets at craft stores, thrift shops, and yard sales for far less than the cost of the flimsy ones in the Easter aisles at the big box stores.
Line the baskets with green scarves instead of plastic Easter grass. The scarves are prettier than Easter grass, and they’re cheaper in the long run because you only buy them once. And, as a bonus, once you switch to scarves in the baskets, you won’t be vacuuming up bits of Easter grass from Pascha to Christmas!
No-Candy Easter Basket Treats
Because children love consistency and predictability, the best Easter basket treats follow a pattern or a rule. Every year, every basket will have the same sort of things in it. This actually makes the baskets more special and more memorable than they would be if you tried do something unique every year.
My favorite rule for an Easter basket is something to read, something for prayer, something to do, and something to wear. Within that rule, you can create something that fits the child’s age and interests, and your budget every year.
And if you want to add a chocolate bunny and a handful of jelly beans to your child’s basket, there’s no harm in doing it. But the other Easter basket treats will mean more, and last longer, than candy.
- Something to read. For me, every gift-giving occasion starts with a book. There are plenty of Easter board books for the littlest ones. For older children, choose a fabulous Easter picture book. Not just a book with bunnies and eggs, but one with people celebrating Easter. Books like Catherine’s Pascha or Chicken Sunday. These books will become your child’s favorite books, and they’ll help cement Pascha in their hearts.
- Something for prayer. Add an icon, a prayer rope, a beeswax candle, or a prayer book. You might choose to include a festal icon every year. If you do that, by the time your child is grown up and ready to leave home, they’ll have an entire set of festal icons of their own.
- Something to do. There are so many things you can include here! It’s spring, so consider a jump rope, sidewalk chalk, bubbles. A plastic egg can hold movie tickets, or a coupon announcing a trip to the zoo, an afternoon spent baking cookies, art lessons, or anything else your child would enjoy. Legos and Duplos are always good. Or handmade peg dolls with chocolate coins. For older kids, you can include games like Bananagrams or Boggle. Maybe your family’s rule will include more than one “something to do.” Maybe you’ll include an activity and a game, or an indoor toy and an outdoor toy. Whatever works for your family and gives your children joy is just right!
- Something to wear. Your children may get new church clothes for Pascha. Why not add new play clothes to their Easter basket? Perhaps a T-shirt with their favorite animal or superhero and a new pair of shorts for the summer. My kids always loved wearing their Easter basket clothes to the picnic after Agape Vespers!
Pascha gifts during a pandemic: If you can’t shop in person because of the pandemic, or if you just don’t have time to go to the stores, don’t worry. I’ve collected links to a variety of mostly handmade gifts that are perfect for the little ones you love.
Easter Picture Books Keep Pascha Present: Don’t put the Easter books away after Pascha! Your kids can keep reading them, and loving them, all year long.
17 ways to use Catherine’s Pascha: Use these fun activities, crafts, projects, and lesson plans with your Church school class or at home.
Books by Charlotte Riggle
This holiday classic shares the joy of Pascha through the eyes of a child. Find it on Amazon or Bookshop.org.
This delightful story is filled with friendship, prayer, sibling squabbles, a godparent’s story of St. Nicholas, and snow. Lots and lots of snow. Find it on Amazon or Bookshop.org.
In this collection of essays, women who are, or have been, single mothers share stories of their relationships with saints who were also single mothers. Charlotte’s story of the widow of Zarephath highlights the virtue of philoxenia. Find it on Amazon or Park End Books.