We all know Easter is liturgically bigger than Christmas but the external evidence is often more muted in our culture. Easter is a time of BIG rejoicing and the things around us aught to reflect that. Big food. Flowers. Hats (if you're feeling adventurous). Really, it should look bigger than Christmas but it's hard to materially trump the secularly pumped glittery season of stuff giving. My aim is not to attempt to make Easter bigger materially... but there is something to be said for intensifying and properly focusing the great feast through the beautiful goodness in our physical world.
Hence, we love giving Easter gifts.
My family does give gifts at Easter but we do not give traditional Easter baskets filled with candy. That pleasure is left to the Grandparents! Instead, we try to find simple but nice gifts to share the joy of the season. There was one year when we had to use laundry baskets instead of Easter baskets because we gave new blankets for their beds. We have given family gifts like a nice set of books or videos. Some years have been leaner with a couple small, fun items for each child. No two years have been the same (other than there being a "basket" to find) and I like the way this leaves us free from expectations of "stuff" and flexible according to our means. Ultimately, the point is JESUS and our aim for gift-giving is still to direct all praise and glory to Him. This year, our goal for gift-giving is...
...Simplify and Sanctify.
At the beginning of the New Year, every person in our family randomly chose a 2011 patron saint (or rather, allowed the saint to choose us). You can read more about this practice here. Since then, we have been getting to know our patrons and asking for their intercession daily. I thought it would be fun and fruitful to choose Easter gifts that specifically reflect the spirituality, actions or charism of each person's saint. It has turned out to be quite enjoyable for me, since I have had to learn more about each saint in order to do this.
We will be giving two gifts to each child. And each gift will have a description of the symbolic relationship to their patron saint. Admittedly, some saints are easier than others (and I am still somewhat stumped for one last gift) and a little imaginative stretching has been in order... but it's working out nicely so far.
Below, I've listed some of our saints and give examples of what we have chosen as gifts. There is one that I cannot share (because Professor "follows" me in Blogger and there is the chance that he might actually read this post) but I really like what we came up with and will happily share with you if you shoot me an email. I'll also update this post after Easter.
St. Maximillian Kolbe
This is the one I cannot share publicly yet. There are so many possibilities; patron of the pro-life movement, journalists, families, and a strong devotion to Mary (see his Immaculata prayer here)... I had trouble just choosing two ideas but finally had to decide. Again, you are welcome to contact me to find out what was chosen.
Here's a photo of a very happy Professor in his St. Maximilian Kolbe t-shirt. He loves the opportunity it provides to share about the life of the great friend of Christ. We found it on ebay for a great price and the quality is very nice.
His second gift was a Miraculous Medal. He has had them in the past but the cheaper metals cause a bad skin reaction... so this one is sterling.
This was a tough one because we knew absolutely nothing about her when her name came up. Once the research was done, however, gift choices became much easier. St. Joan was the foundress of the Order of the Annunciation and she strived to live her life in union with Mary's Fiat ("Be it done unto me...").
For the first gift, I chose a pretty Miraculous Medal necklace that I found on Etsy. Very lovely and very reasonable at $12 (free shipping). They arrive packaged on a card bearing a lovely image of Blessed Mother.
Rachel Marie Pink Swarovski Crystal Miraculous Medal Necklace
St. Andrew of Bobola
This one has been a little challenging for me because the recipient is a 6-year old girl and the outstanding elements of St. Andrew's biography are the gruesome details of his martyrdom. I decided to go ahead with the Miraculous Medal necklace in blue for the first gift (don't all saints love Blessed Mother?) and was stumped with the second until I discovered that St. Andrew is the patron of Poland. That opens a creative door but I have not made a decision. Two options:
~Pysanky -- I think these are so lovely and richly symbolic; even better because they are handcrafted by a Catholic homeschooling mom. My hesitation is the price for something that might be under-appreciated at this age. Another option could be wooden pysanky that she could use for play. I will be exploring this option further. If I did this, she would receive a note explaining the symbolism of the Easter egg and the tradition of pysanky in Poland.
~Traditional Polish Easter Basket made with felt food. I love making felt food and really like this idea. But... the TIME it would take? I'm not sure I have it. Any Polish bloggers out there with ideas?
Our little Jellybean (3) has St. Helena as a patroness this year. The Miraculous Medal necklace shown above was (again) an obvious choice for the first gift. (She's going to feel like a real princess with her first real necklace.) The second? This was a stumper because of her age. But I found the answer a couple of days ago at the HappyMomOnline shop. (Heather is a Catholic homeschooling mama of 6 whom I have known through blogging. I did not know until recently that she sells darling products for kiddos and moms.)
St. Helena was the mother of Constantine the Great and also credited with discovery of the true Cross of Christ. In the spirit of St. Helena walking the path of Christ to discover signs of His presence, I purchased a Bible Find it Busy Bag from Heather's shop. It is filled with 27 items that are symbolic of a story from Scripture. Perfect!
St. Jude Thaddeus
We all laughed when Crash ended up with St. Jude, patron of lost causes; not because he is hopelessly lost but because he is the one who is most responsible for my greying hair and hands periodically thrown towards heaven. Wonderful, passionate, affectionate child... with a penchant for getting into hot water!
Saint Jude was an apostle of great zeal and courage. His image is often depicted with a flame above his head because of his presence at Pentacost. He was ultimately martyred for his love of Christ. Because of this, I chose the following t-shirt as gift number one. Flame over the cross and Scripture that reads: "Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." ~Joshua 1:19...
Gift number two is a pocket compass for his haversack. (If your son doesn't yet have Tin Cups and Tinder I highly recommend it. That is where we got the idea for making the haversack.) St. Jude travelled far and wide preaching the Good News. The compass will be given with an explanation of how the travels of St. Jude always pointed in the direction of the heart and will of Jesus and a medal of St. Jude attached to it.
More ideas for Catholic Easter gifts.......
~Catholic Easter Basket Ideas at Shower of Roses
~I have a forthcoming post about Easter gifts that the children will be giving to the adults in their lives. I will link it here after it is posted.