Easter is about springtime and renewal, and most children love the savory and sweet foods served at brunches and garden parties. Adults need time to prepare the Easter feast in advance. Easter egg hunts keep children entertained while hosts set up perishable items on the table at the last minute. Some parents enjoy dressing up kids in fancy attire for Easter parties, especially those attending church services, so stick to pastel-colored foods--red sauce on a frilly frock can ruin the festive mood.
In the United States, people of all religions celebrate Easter as a nonsecular holiday. Thousands of years ago, Northern European tribes rejoiced in the renewal of spring and the birth of domestic animals, such as lambs and chicks. Christians marked the resurrection of Christ with prayer and feasts. The two celebrations shared common elements and eventually blended traditions. Easter went mainstream in the 20th century, and now Easter in the U.S. focuses on children and sugary treats.
Easter parties should be full of whimsy and decoration. Foods that reflect the joyous feelings associated with Easter please children and adults alike. Plentiful well-prepared food makes guests feel welcome and cared for. Pile treats into individual Easter baskets customized for each child, and put them on a side table. When a small guest leaves, he can take the treats with him and continue celebrating at home.
Ham is a traditional Easter favorite. Slicing the ham prior to putting it on the table makes good safety sense. Surrounding a pineapple and brown-sugar-crusted ham with small thin slices looks impressive and is kid-friendly.
Open face, crust-free sandwiches cut into triangles look good and are small-finger-friendly. Veggie cream cheese makes a good base. Decorative toppings such as slices of hard-boiled egg, scallion sprigs and sliced black olives appeal to kids who like color and pattern in foods.
Easter and dairy foods make a natural pair--buttering bread before adding toppings adds flavor, and setting out well-chilled pitchers of milk is a change from serving soda. Girls tend to love anything small with crust. Mini-quiches with cheese and some spinach hidden inside are healthy and tasty.
Sugar Easter eggs fascinate children and adults alike. The ornate hollow ovals of sugar have cut outs, which open on to miniature sugary tableaux of bunnies, flowers and chicks. Sugar eggs attract the eye, but chocolate Easter eggs are good for gnawing. White chocolate Easter eggs help avoid dreaded smear markets on pastel outfits.
Traditional yeast-risen cakes such as Polish babka, Italian panetone or Russian kulich bring generations of women together when they stay up late preparing the dough, proofing it, kneading it and then finally baking it early in the morning. The breadlike cakes sometimes have raisins and taste even better with fresh sweet butter on top. Involving children in the preparation of traditional baked goods teaches them about the family history and culture.
Easter parties traditionally take place during the day. Outside celebrations are particularly welcome in cold winter climates. Easter parties might be one of the first in the year a kid gets to celebrate in the fresh air. Spring weather can be unpredictable, so make backup plans in case of rain or cold temperatures. Kids build up healthy appetites running around outside and hunting for Easter eggs, so make sure plenty of food is available.