Easter is definitely a fun time, full of great gifts, and copious chocolate, but as a holiday tradition in this country, it is a curious creature indeed. It’s definitely well-established into the national calendar, what with two days of bank holidays and state schools in the midst of a few weeks of break. But exactly when is “Easter” itself?
Is it Good Friday? Is it Easter Sunday? Is it the three days themselves, or is it the season? Are ‘Easter Cards’ really a thing? Should you have a list of people you give them to, like Christmas? Is Easter one of those times when you go to Church even if you only ‘nominally’ believe? And perhaps most importantly, when exactly are you supposed to eat all that chocolate?
Easter time may be confusing, but confusion is also an opportunity. Because the rules are fuzzy, you get the chance to make your own rules, deciding for yourself just what celebrating Easter means. If you want to move away from giving your kids the traditional/commercially mandated chocolate eggs each year, maybe have a look a little further afield and see what’s out there in the range of alternative Easter gifts.
Religious connotations aside, some parents might think that the Easter story itself, what with all the bloodied thorns and uncomfortably placed nails might not exactly be appropriate subject matter for young children.
However we should also remember two important things, first that plenty of the songs and tales definitely aimed at children are very much full of grizzly and gruesome subject matter (witches slamming children into ovens, wolves swallowing children whole, giants grinding up bones etc…), and secondly there are many Christian authors who have become masters of sharing the central elements of their faith while dodging the two principle minefields of bad religiously storytelling – preachiness or boredom.
C.S Lewis and J. R. R Tolkien are perhaps the most famous writers behind this kind of work, but there are also many others in the same vein. For younger readers, you might want to consider the Septimus Heap series by Angie Sage, while for teenagers they may like the works of Ted Dekker or Simon Morden. Stories with religious themes and ideas are of course good to read at any time of year, but around Easter and other specific festivals maybe it could be good to delve into the culture of a particular faith, regardless of your own beliefs.
Board & Card Games
Parents and guardians of the land, rejoice. Monopoly is no longer king. Long live Carcassonne, Settlers of Catan, Exploding Kittens, and if you’re dealing with older Teenagers, Cards Against Humanity.
The holiday times with children mean that we have more time to spend together, and thanks to the revolution in the board and card games industry of the last ten years, game types and themes have blossomed and evolved in all kinds of new forms and directions.
To make sure you find the best possible games for you and your family, in addition to checking the obvious like target age and number of players, you might want to cast your eye over the genre and game mechanic types. A quick guide to some of the terms follows:
- Social Deduction game – Where different players know different amounts about the broader situation, and they may have different goals. The group of players has to work out who is who and who is doing what to reach the endgame. Examples include – Werewolf, Avalon, Coup.
- Deck Building games – This is a game usually involving cards representing characters or creatures etc… with specific powers and abilities etc. As the game progresses, different cards will get swapped in and out of your hand, and things will change and your abilities and strategies will need to shift. Examples include – Dominion, Roll for the Galaxy, Clank!
- Co-operative games – Everyone has the same goal, and you are playing against the game itself. Much friendlier than the more cut-throat dynamics than can emerge in things like Risk or Monopoly. The mechanics of these can be more involved, so you might be better off with older children here. Examples include – Pandemic, Thunderbirds, Mysterium
- Legacy games – This is a contentious development in board game circles, but could be a great gift for your family if you want to build a long lasting tradition. Each game you play leaves its own mark on the board, so every time you get games like this down from the shelf, you carry with it the legacy of all the other games of it you’ve played. Do double check when you make these purchases though, as some of these games can only be played a certain number of times before the legacy becomes unworkable. Examples include – Seafall, Gloomhaven, Charterstone
If you want to make sure your Easter holiday is a time of family get togethers and interesting memories made, definitely make sure to look into your local board game distributor. Or if you want to make a day of it, try seeing if your area has a board game cafe nearby. They are popping up everywhere, from Shoreditch to Oxford to Newcastle to Cardiff. If you can’t find one nearby, a family friendly cafe or pub will likely be more than happy to find you a table big enough to spread out any pieces, cards, or board.
You might think that this seems less than traditionally “alternative” since the entirety of the more secular side of Easter seems to revolve exclusively around chocolate. However the traditional eggs are only the tip of the novelty chocolate iceberg, and the vast variety of other options means you and your kids can have all kinds of fun, with a little extra imagination and knowhow. Some popular options include:
- Chocolate gold bars – perfect for a pirate treasure hunt, a bank robbery role playing game, or a make believe globe-trotting adventure of Dan Brownian proportions
- Chocolate medals – ideal for an alternative Olympics with events ranging from the three legged race to the chubby bunny challenge
- Chocolate coins – a great way to lower the stakes in any number of gambling games, or even if you really do want Monopoly to make a return, maybe change out the paper notes for something more fun.
- Bespoke Chocolate set – A nice way to tailor a gift to someone’s interests. Because how many of us are really that into eggs?
- Chocolate dinosaur – Because why on earth not!
Easter is indeed a curious beast among the UK’s national holiday selection, and thanks to the range of alternative gifts on offer, we all have the opportunity to make it that little bit stranger still.