Preparing for Holy Week..

Pascha is ever so quickly approaching! Here are some easy activities to get ready for Holy Week:

This Holy Week Clock from The Liturgical Year for Little Ones is a great visual countdown of the days to Pascha.  All of the links for the coloring pages are included.

Or isn’t this neat- making a real working oil lamp, similar to those used in Biblical times, to illustrate the Parable of the Ten Virgins.  All you need is a bit off an old candle wick, some olive oil, and clay (you can use an air-dry clay like Model Magic, available at most craft stores, as well as Target & Wal-mart, I believe).  If you have a full-size oil lamp, it can be a great illustration of the parable as well (we have one I purchased very inexpensively for power outages, a similar one is available here).

In addition to the Palm Sunday set, I am also trying to make more little felt sets that my daughter can use at home, as well as  take to church. I just started this one for Holy Thursday, another one could be made for Holy Friday with a cross, tomb and stone, etc.  There are lots of possibilities, depending on your artistic skills-I’ll see how it ours go over! I plan to store them in these little pencil cases I found at Wal-mart for $1 apiece.

This last idea I wasn’t sure if I was going to link, since we are so close to Pascha, but I liked it so much  I just had to! Martianne’s family at Training Happy Hearts  decorates little baby food jars, pokes holes in them, and labels them “pray”, “fast” and “give”.

Martianne writes:

Last year, we made very simple jars for each of us to reflect upon and keep track of our efforts with prayer, fasting and almsgiving during the Lenten season… Basically, we just made holes in the top of some jars and then created labels that said “pray”, “fast” and “give” along with our names.  We placed these on our Liturgical Table, and, nearby, we kept a jar of dry beans.  Nightly, we reflected on how we prayed, fasted or offered ourselves to other people, adding up to three beans to our jar in accordance with what we did.  Then, at Easter, the beans were “made new” by taking them away and replacing them with a sweet, long-lasting treat (lollipops, by the kids choice) to symbolize the enduring gift of Jesus.  This simple daily activity really helped drive home the message to our children that Lent is a time to cleanse and prepare ourselves for the joy of Jesus’ coming through prayer, fasting and giving.
Isn’t that a sweet idea? Martianne also shares that this year they made one set of jars for the whole family, which I think is wonderful as well, as it can bring the family together in their efforts (and minimize that pesky sibling rivalry!)  And of course instead of lollipops, the beans could be replaced  with jelly beans, M&M’s, or whatever your children enjoy. Something to file away for next year!

A Lenten Centerpiece

I have wanted to share so many more Lenten ideas these past weeks, but things have been a bit hectic as of late. So here is one idea that I have implemented in our house and am really enjoying-a Lenten centerpiece (I’ve seen them referred to as “Lenterpieces” around the web!)

The idea behind a Lenten centerpiece, for me, is to be a great visual reminder of Lent at every meal, and every time I walk by our dining room table (which happens to be part of our living room as well).  I’ve found that just by placing an icon in an unexpected place, your eye will be drawn to it so much more than the others in your home which your eyes have become more accustomed to seeing.

Our centerpiece is very simple, as you can see: a purple silk runner with a lace ribbon, an icon, candle, empty bowl, and alms jar. The empty bowl is a reminder of fasting of course, for both ourselves, as well as a reminder of those who don’t have enough food to eat (The Catholic tradition has a wonderful Lenten charity effort called Operation Rice Bowl that inspired me in this).  The alms jar can be filled with ideas for the whole family to choose from each day-for some wonderful ideas check out Phyllis Onest’s “Lenten Bouquet” here. There are lots of other inspiring ideas here too). The icon can be changed out as to the appropriate day, and can be a wonderful conversation starter around the dinner table.  And of course the candle can be lit before mealtime prayers, and serve as a point of interest for little ones during quiet prayer time.

There are many more great ideas for Lenten centerpieces around the web, ours is definitely one of the more simple ones.  But I have already found that it is working in our home as a visual reminder to stay focused on Christ amidst the busyness of everyday life. And it was so sweet to have my three year old daughter tell me after breakfast that she had to move the “beautiful purple fabric” so she didn’t spill her cereal milk on it. This coming from a little gal who just recently experimented with drawing on the ottomans, and is prone to leaving a trail of toys, clothes, and crumbs wherever she goes!

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!