Crafting with the Daily Readings: Rainbows!

We are headed out of town so this will be a quick post!  Since one of  today’s daily readings is Genesis 9:8-17, I thought it would be fun to find some rainbow-related crafts/ideas to share. Here are some that caught my eye ..

How about some yummy fruit kebabs? If you don’t have any kebab sticks, you can instead put the fruit on a plate in a rainbow shape.  Idea here.

Or how about a paper plate rainbow? You could add rain drops with Scripture verses, too.


And here’s a simple coloring sheet for the youngest ones 🙂



Fun Food for St. Patrick’s Day!

This is my last post on St. Patrick’s Day, I promise! I’m working on an almsgiving activity that I am excited to share soon.  Until then, I found some fun green foods I wanted to share with you (i didn’t find any particularly easy, kid-friendly Irish fare that is fasting, though soda bread would be the classic option)..

How cute are these shamrock chips? They are made from spinach tortillas using a shamrock cookie cutter (I got mine for 99 cents from Michael’s).  You could dip them in hummus, salsa, white bean dip, etc..

Or how about a green fruit salad? Granny Smith apples, kiwis, avocado, and pistachios combine with a little mint, lime juice and agave (or maple) syrup for a refreshing snack. If there are picky eaters around, you could always put each ingredient in separate bowls and let everyone make their own. Recipe here.

To drink, how about  a green smoothie, made from grape juice, apple, avocado and a little spinach?  I haven’t tried it but I’m guessing you could sweeten it up with a little more juice or honey if needed.  See recipe here.  Another option could be limeade, homemade or store-bought.

And lastly, though not food-related, a cute little poem to add to your shamrock activities:

Just like the leaves on each shamrock I see,

there are three persons of the Holy Trinity.

First is God the Father,

then Jesus His only Son,

and the Holy Spirit,

Together as One.

Ok, that’s all for St. Patrick. More lenten activites, coming soon!

A St. Patrick “Treasure” Hunt

Here is another fun idea that we may do for our Hope & Joy meeting on Saturday – a shamrock/pot of gold treasure hunt!

Since most kids will be familiar with the idea of leprechauns and a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, it is a nice opportunity to take the  idea of “treasure” and reframe it by teaching Matthew 6:19-21.  I found small fun-foam shamrocks from Michael’s, that I plan on writing simple clues on (check out here to get your juices flowing.  For older children, you could write out questions relating to lent/Easter that have to be answered before they get the next clue.)  I plan on hiding the shamrocks around the church hall, and the final clue will lead to the “pot of gold”, a pot full of these little Scripture cards, with a gold token shamrock attached, to remind them of the lessons they learned today  (I also found the gold coins at Michael’s-I like them because they depict only a shamrock, and not a four lead clover and references to luck). I hope they enjoy it!

St. Gregory Palamas..and pretzels!

image courtesy of

O light of Orthodoxy, pillar and teacher of the Church,
ideal of monastics and invincible champion theologian,
O wonder-working Gregory, boast of Thessalonica and herald of grace,
Forever pray to the Lord that our souls be saved.

Today is, of course, the second Sunday of Lent and the Sunday of St. Gregory Palamas.  It is wonderful to celebrate this pillar of our faith as we enter more deeply into lent and the challenges of keeping the fast. As summarizes:

Saint Gregory is known as one of the great defenders of Orthodoxy and is most well known for his defense against the heresies of Barlaam.  Gregory was asked to defend the Monastic ways of the Holy Mountain from the charges of Barlaam of Calabria, who, influenced by the Latin Church, believed that philosophy and human thought were the way to know God.  Orthodoxy has always known, through the wisdom of the Holy Fathers, that prayer and fasting were the key to knowing God.  Barlaam believed that the monks of Mount Athos were wasting their time in their prayers and fasting when they should be studying the great philosophers of mankind…(St. Gregory) taught the Orthodox knowledge that it remains impossible to know God in His essence or person. However, with sufficient prayer and fasting, and turning oneself over to God, through purification of one’s soul, anyone could come to know Him in His energies and being. (

Among the many gifts and insight St. Gregory has given us, his defense of the importance of fasting and prayer in coming to know God is a message as relevant today against modern thought as it was seven hundred years ago.  And I think it is also probably one of the more accessible aspects of St. Gregory’s teachings for children, since we should probably save teaching about the “essence” and “energies” of God for older children.  An interesting tidbit we can share with kids is that St. Gregory was a great student in school, one of the best.  But he realized that even though school can be important, loving God, and learning about Him through praying and fasting, is the most important thing we can do.

Legend of the Pretzel

Last year during Lent we made pretzels to begin our discussion of fasting, and I think it would be a great-tie in to learning about St. Gregory as well, as it combines  learning about monks and monasteries with both fasting and prayer*.  (If you are not familiar with the legend of the pretzel you can read more here.  The pretzel is a most appropriate food symbol for Lent, as it  shows the form of arms crossed in prayer, reminding us that Lent is a time of prayer, and consists only of water and flour,  reminding us to fast).  It was neat to see how making the pretzels got the children thinking about how all the yummy foods they enjoy often contain eggs, butter, etc, and how fasting entails abstaining from these favorite foods.  (Pretzels can also be a tangible example and counterpoint to the rich breads we enjoy in celebration on Pascha.) For our lesson I used this little booklet (not the lesson on the web page, click on the pretzel for the pdf) as a group introduction first and it worked very well, as it is written in simple language but still imparts a lot of great information.  I can’t find the recipe we tried, but this one could be used, as the butter can be omitted.  I hope you enjoy!

*don’t worry,  i realize the bit of irony that pretzels (most likely) originated in a western monastery, and I am using them to teach about our Eastern Orthodox saint’s contribution defeating a heresy from a western perspective regarding the way of the Eastern monastics!  Interesting enough, though, I just read another bit of info about pretzels on wikipedia: “The looped pretzel may also be related to a Greek ring bread, derived from communion bread used in monasteries a thousand years ago.-wikipedia.  There is some more food for thought!

St. Patrick’s Day Trinity “Muffins”!

I ran across the idea of “Trinity” muffins here and just knew I had to try them and share this great idea with you!  We plan on making these for a snack for our Hope & Joy meeting this Saturday, after learning about St. Patrick and talking about the three Persons of the Holy Trinity.  I think kids of all ages would really enjoy these!

The original recipe called for using biscuit dough,  but I found that pizza dough works just as well. I tested this recipe using vegan pre-made dough from Trader Joe’s, but it does still have a little oil in it, so for an oil-free option you could try making this recipe (though I haven’t tried it).  If you have lots of time you could make the dough with the kids as well, and use the rise time for another activity.  Since we have a lot we are trying to cover, I will probably just bring the dough pre-made.

The only ingredients you need are your bread dough, cinnamon, and sugar.  The children can help mix together the cinnamon and sugar in a large bowl first ( I just eyeballed this).  Then each child gets three small pieces of dough, about the size of small meatballs, and a cupcake liner.  You can explain that the three balls represent the 3 persons (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit) of our one God.

The children can roll each piece of dough into a ball and then in the cinnamon sugar, and put them touching inside their muffin liners.

After baking in a muffin pan at 350 degrees for 14-18 minutes, they should be ready  (I confess I lost track of how long I left them in, so watch them).  When they come out of the oven the 3 balls of dough are now, of course, one “muffin”!

When they had cooled, my daughter immediately asked for sprinkles on top, so we added some green sugar crystals as well, which settled into the cracks and highlighted the three parts nicely!  I was especially surprised when I pointed out the three parts to my daughter and she remarked that they looked like pretzels.  What a great theological tie-in! We made pretzels for lent last year to talk about fasting (i’ll do a post for that soon), and that would be another fun option for a snack as well. Here is a shamrock version you could try as well.

Hopefully this little cooking project will be a great illustration of the Holy Trinity and a nice conversation starter for a group discussion.  If you would prefer to not make a sweet treat, they would probably be equally yummy sprinkled with kosher salt and fresh herbs like rosemary, for a focaccia-esque muffin.

Stay tuned for more St. Patrick’s day ideas, coming soon..

Prayer of St. Ephrem for Children

When my daughter was two, I found this little book in a church bookstore and had to have it for her.  It’s called the Guardian Angel Children’s Prayer Book: An Introduction to the Divine Liturgy and Prayers for the Young Child, by Fr. T. Lozynsky, ilustrated by Yaraslova.  Unfortunately, a quick google search yielded no immediate online sellers, but I will keep looking.  This little book has wonderfully charming illustrations that take the child through the Divine Liturgy, simple explanations of the sacraments and feast days, and common prayers.  One thing I especially like is that it has a simplified version of the prayer of St. Ephem/Ephraim that even young children can understand.  We have added it to our morning prayers with our three year old and I wanted to share it with you.

I have typed it up into word and thought it would be nice to make prayer cards with, perhaps mounting it on some pretty scrapbook paper or letting my daughter decorate the back.  I am learning how to use scribd and hope to share the copy I’ve made with you soon!

I will also have a copy of the “original” prayer if you would prefer that one.  In the meantime, I wanted to share this little prayer booklet put together by the GOYA of Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Norfolk, VA.  I think It would make a nice activity to make these little books together by adding a nice cover, either from cardstock, fun foam, or the like.  They could be kept for personal use or given as gifts. You can find it here : Orthodox Christian Prayer Book Pocket-Size.

Celebrating St. Patrick

(Troparion, Tone 3)

O holy hierarch Patrick, wonderworker and equal of the apostles, enlightener of the Irish land, entreat the merciful God, that He grant our souls remission of transgressions.


Our Joy and Hope meeting is set for March 17 this month, which is of course St. Patrick’s Day! It will be a great opportunity to take this day back from all the  “leprechauns and luck” and use it to teach our children about not only a well-loved saint but also the Holy Trinity.  I’m excited to share some fun ideas over the coming days that you can use to celebrate the real St. Patrick as well!

First up, resources. We plan on reading St. Patrick’s Day by Gail Gibbons, for a brief introduction to the saint’s life that will appeal to our different ages. (Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland by Tomie dePaola is another option). We are also considering reading Three in One: A Book about God, to enhance our discussion of the Holy Trinity (which will begin with a real three leaf clover/shamrock, of course!)  While not written by an Orthodox Christian, the book presents a  tangible metaphor (a tree) for the Holy Trinity without straying from Scripture. (I ran it by my husband, a seminary grad, who gave it his OK, which means a lot to me!)  We will do some fun cooking/craft projects relating to the Holy Trinity & symbolism of the shamrock, and end with learning/singing the hymns “Father Son and Holy Spirit, Trinity One in Essence, and Undivided” and  “One is Holy.  (We’ll also talk about where these hymns fall during the Divine Liturgy, to encourage participation at what will be the next day’s service).

Crafts/Games/Cooking Projects coming up next-stay tuned!

P.S. Did you know that Orthodox Christian Fellowship has some great resources on their website about “the real St. Patrick”? Included are the icon above (from the hand of Michael Kapeluck) , a supplication service from which the above Troparion is taken from, and Irish recipes. Though we often think of St. Patrick as a western saint, he was  born in 387 and died in 461. For more information about St. Patrick, a great resource is orthodoxwiki.

Candleholders-an oldie but a goodie!

Here is a simple craft that I’m sure everyone has seen before: tissue paper-covered candleholders.  I had wanted to try something new, but ended up making these with my daughter today and re-appreciating how simple and easy they are! Despite the simplicity, they are still enjoyable for older children to make, and can be a wonderful lenten activity and addition to your prayer table/corner.  Lighting candles before praying and reading Scripture is both theologicaly significant and a great point of interest for children of all ages.  These little candles can also be a nice gift for grandparents, godparents, etc.

We used candles that I buy for our prayer corner from A.C. Moore for $1 apiece.  You can also usually find several different styles of tea light/candle holders at dollar stores, or you could use baby food jars or canning jars.  We tore up purple tissue paper into small pieces, and used watered down glue to adhere them.  (If you have it, Mod Podge works even better).  I also added some purple glitter to the glue for some added sparkle (so much less messy than adding glitter separately!) After they dried, we added a simple yarn bow, but you can use any kind of ribbon, raffie, etc, to finish them off. Simple but sweet!

Sunday of Orthodoxy

Apolytikion in the Second Tone

We worship your immaculate icon, O Good One, asking the forgiveness of our failings, O Christ our God, for of Your own will You were well-pleased to ascend the Cross in the flesh, that You might deliver from slavery to the enemy those whom You had fashioned.  Wherefore, we cry to You thankfully, “You did fill all things with joy, O our Savior, when you came to save the world”.

-© Fr. Seraphim Dedes