School broke up for Easter this last Friday and seeing as my children are 6, 5 and 2, and constantly fighting, I realised early on in the school year that I have to keep them super busy in the holidays. As a result, our school breaks are action-packed. We plan activities for every day: playdates, crafts, baking, outings into central London… Chiara asked me to share a few of the things we’ll be doing over the Easter break.
Hot Cross Buns
In England, Hot Cross Buns are spiced sweet buns that mark the end of Lent and are usually eaten on Good Friday. They’re made with raisins or currants and are marked with a cross on the top which represents the Crucifixion; the spices represent the spices used to embalm Christ at his burial. I don’t usually eat them as I’m not a huge fan of raisins in my pastries, but my son Jude discovered a love of baking this year, and my daughter has come home the last two weeks singing the ‘Hot Cross Buns’ nursery rhyme every day, so I have decided to make the most of this and make them during the Easter holidays this year. We’ll be using this BBC recipe http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/hotcrossbuns_397 . Hot Cross Buns are best eaten cut in half, toasted and buttered.
In the last few years it has become popular to create variations of the traditional recipe, such as toffee, orange, apple-cinnamon and coffee. Others use chocolate chips instead of raisins.
We’re big fans of crafts at our house. Foam crosses are so simple to make! Using art foam (or card, or any other medium, really!) we cut out a basic cross shape. I then cut smaller foam pieces in different colours, and stick them to the cross background to create a mosaic effect. In the past we’ve made them at the beginning of lent, and have stuck on a mosaic tile each time I’ve observed the children being helpful, loving, or sacrificing something they want for someone else, hoping to fill the crosses before the end of Lent.
Signs of Spring
Autumn is a sad time for my children – they’re heartbroken at the idea of the flowers and the trees ‘dying’. Because of this, the first signs of spring are super exciting for them! We walk through the park on the way to school so they can see the blossom trees flowering and the new leaf buds on the trees. During the Easter holidays we’ll be going to see other signs of spring and of new life.
Bluebells are the UK’s best-loved wild flowers, and they flower between mid-April and late May. They completely transform our woodland in springtime, creating carpets of intense blue. Half of the world’s bluebells are here in the UK, and the children and I will be going to Beckenham Place Park, South-east London, to see the spectacular display there
London’s city farms are currently welcoming their newest members and we’ll be going along to see the new lambs, ducklings and chicks too. Surrey Docks Farm is a family favourite, but Godstone Farm and Christmas Tree farm in Orpington are also recommended!
For anyone planning to go and see bluebells, remember that they are protected in the UK and picking them is highly discouraged.
We have not been to The Passion of Jesus in Tragalgar Square before, but will definitely be going this year. It’s a Passion play put on by the wonderful Wintershall players every year. Over 20,000 people travel to Trafalgar Square in central London every Good Friday to watch the free 90-minute production. They have two performances on the day – 12 noon and 3:15, and large screens are provided to maximise visibility, and there are BSL interpreters. Due to its being a realistic interpretation, they advise parental guidance.
One of our favourite school holiday activities is to go to the National Gallery and take part in their holiday activities. They do a Messy Monday and Talking Tuesday both of which are amazing. They’re aimed at under-8s and the lady who usually runs them, Jacqui Ansell, is wonderful. The sessions focus on one painting from the museum and Jacqui usually starts by telling the story of the painting. There’s soft play, sensory play, crafts, painting, dressing up…
The drop-in sessions they run on Tuesday – Thursday are incredible. I don’t mind admitting that most of my kids’ artwork ends up in the recycling bin after a couple of weeks, but every single thing we have made at the National Gallery sessions is still in the house, and most of it is still on display. Upon arrival you’re given a pack containing sheets of paper, colouring pencils and an information sheet which is a map of the museum with a series of paintings to go and look at and instructions to copy a particular detail from each. At the end of it we make something. In the past we’ve made a mobile, angel wings, a horse sculpture, silhouette puppets… and they’re usually big projects that the children are really proud of. I highly recommend it.
They usually also run apprentice workshops, run by a professional artist. My sister has been to several of them and has enjoyed them all!
The National Gallery website will let you know everything they’ve got going on https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/families
Tall Ships Regatta
The ever-popular Tall Ships Regatta returns to London this April. We are lucky enough to live a short 15-minute bicycle ride from Greenwich, and attend this event every time it takes place.
During the Tall Ships Festival a fleet of more than 30 ships spends the weekend in the Maritime Greenwich and Royal Arsenal Woolwich riverfronts. The crews prepare for their 7,000 nautical mile race to Canada, and those of us on dry land have four days of festivities, including cruises aboard the ships, beautiful fireworks displays every night and maritime themed activities in both town centres.
I recently discovered Resurrection Gardens on Pinterest. It’s a wonderful way to talk about Christ every day during Holy Week. Every part of it is used to talk about God and Jesus, going through the Creation story, the Flood, the Nativity, Palm Sunday, the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, and finally the Resurrection. This is another one we’ll be trying for the first time this year. A quick Google search will bring up countless tutorials - there are so many different ways of doing them, depending on the time and materials at your disposal!
Easter Egg Hunt
For as long as I can remember we have had an Easter Egg Hunt at my grandparents’ house at the beginning of Easter. I have wonderful memories of searching high and low in the garden for the small foil-wrapped eggs, competing with my cousins to find as many as possible. Now I hide the eggs rather than search for them but I love watching my children run around the same garden that I searched in with my younger siblings and cousins. If the weather allows, the Egg Hunt is preceded by a big family barbecue, and is usually the first of the year as the weather finally starts to improve.
I hope some of our activities serve as inspiration for you and your families. Happy Easter to all!