Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A few more ideas for Holy Thursday

I was searching around the internet for more ways we could observe Holy Thursday in our home. Here are some ideas I came across:

1) Eat a "green" meal
In Germany, Maundy Thursday is known as "Green Thursday" (Grundonnerstag). I understand that the word comes from grunen, which means to mourn. But over time, it has morphed into the word grĂ¼n which is the German word for "green." In Germany and some Slavic countries, it is the custom to eat something green today-- perhaps spinach salad, cucumbers, string beans, or maybe even pea soup? (Float oyster crackers in the soup to represent the bread that Jesus shared with his apostles on this night?)

2)Recite or chant the Tantum Ergo (Down in Adoration Falling.) You can find the English words here. Eventually, I plan to teach this song to my children in Latin. You can find the Latin words here.

3) Some people will celebrate with the Christian version of a Jewish Seder Meal. I haven't delved into this much yet; perhaps it will be something we will try next year. If you are interested, check out this link or this one for ideas.

4) Study Last Supper religious artwork
This is something we occasionally do in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atrium, as a means of introducing the children into deep concentration and study of classical religious artwork. This is something I plan to try this year. I will download some famous paintings and icons depicting the Last Supper, and then discuss them with my children. We will look at more than just Leonardo DaVinci's famous painting. In fact, I plan to stay away from discussing some of the supposed "hidden messages" in that painting, but instead focus on what the people are doing, the expressions on their faces, etc.

In addition, we will look at icons of the Last Supper, like this one. Or others, like this beautiful one by Nicholas Poussin.

5)Make a visit to seven local churches to visit the altars of repose in each church, and spend some time praying to Jesus.
Explain to your children that this is a way that we can show Jesus that we are with him on Holy Thursday, the night when He went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray before being arrested by the soldiers.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Observing Holy Thursday with a Last Supper diorama and figures

I am always looking for new ways to help my children understand the important days of Holy Week. I search for hands-on activities that help them better understand their faith.

One of our Holy Thursday activities includes working with our "Last Supper" diorama and figures. I made these small figures using wooden balls and dowels, painted to look like Biblical figures. The table is a small piece of plywood with wooden spool legs. It is covered with a simple white cloth. I found the minature candles, paten and chalice in the dollhouse section of the local craft store.

The kids use more elaborate figures in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atrium, yet they are still drawn to my simply made figures. That's one thing I love about my kids -- they are critical of my less-than-skillful painting techniques!

We read the Last Supper passage from Matthew 26 while the kids use the figures to re-enact the scene. It is done with a lit candle. It is a simple, yet beautiful way to meditate on the Last Supper.

My figures took a few weeks to make, so it may not be a project you want to take on now if you would like it finished by Thursday. I have some ideas and resources if you would like to quickly create some figures for your children to use this week.

You might consider making figures out of clothespins. Instructables has step-by-step instructions with photos. (These aren't Biblical figures but you could adapt them.) There is another nice tutorial on the Going Sew Crazy blog.

One of my favorite sites, Making Friends, has instructions for making Biblical paper dolls. I once made them using magnet sheets. This link is for a Nativity set with figures, but it gives you the templates for the figures. You could make a Cenacle-type diorama with a shoe box.

Finally, this website gives information on making simple sewn Bible figures.

You could also do a websearch for paintings with Biblical figures, cut them out, cover them with clear contact paper, and then mount them to popsicle sticks for quick puppets.

My one caution would be that your figures should not appear cartoonish or silly. These aren't toys, but rather materials to help your child develop the tools to meditate

I would love to hear from others who have made their own Bible figures. Please tell us about it!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Readings and activities for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week

This is an important week in the Church, leading up to the most important day of the year in the liturgical calendar. In the next couple of days I will discuss a few activities and observances in the home to help your children better understand the Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday). But some families like to begin the observances with Palm Sunday, and carry them through Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. It's a great way to build up the anticipation for the big celebration of Easter Sunday.

What kind of things can you do to help your family prepare for the Triduum?

This website suggests a daily reading with a special snack like homemade pretzels, or by honoring a neighbor or friend with the gift of an Easter lily.

This website suggests simple activities like picking a favorite Easter or Christian movie to watch as a family, making Resurrection cookies or ensuring you make it to reconciliation and/or adoration this week.

This Greek Orthodox church website shows some beautiful icons appropriate for this week, and includes an explanation of the icons and some prayers.

How about making a display of Holy Week items? This could be a fun "treasure hunt" for children. This website has some good ideas on items you could include in your display. (Scan down the page a bit until you come to the "Holy Monday" entry for the list of items.

Check with your diocese for special observances that might be happening. For example, a church you have never attended may be offering a Living Stations of the Cross observance on Good Friday, or there may be a procession from church to church after Holy Thursday's Last Supper Mass. Depending on their ages, your children might enjoy these tangible re-creations of Christ's last days. (However, check for age appropriateness.)

Do you have special activities and observances for these days before Holy Thursday? If so, please share them in the comments section. I would love to hear about them.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Celebrating Palm Sunday

My childhood remembrances of Palm Sunday are special. I recall the excitement of getting the blessed palm leaves, which were so different from the leaves found on trees around our Midwestern home. It was fun to carry and wave them in church, then bring them home and weave them into little crosses which were tacked up above the door in our bedroom. And there was the excitement of knowing that next week would be Easter Sunday!

I thought I would share some other ideas for making this day special, and extending the Biblical message we heard at Mass today.

In the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atrium, we process through the church with our palms. We also celebrate a special Last Supper with the children. (We meet only on Sunday mornings, so could not recreate this on Holy Thursday.) The children re-enact the role of Jesus and his Apostles -- preparing the "Cenacle" for the important meal, (we set a long tablecloth on the floor and they set it with chalice and paten). Then we re-create the Last Supper together. Afterwards, we enjoy matzo bread (for the unleavened bread) and white grape juice. The kids look forward to this celebration each year, and ask if they can play the role of various apostles and Jesus.

The children also work with a Last Supper Diorama. I'll share information about that in my blog on Wednesday.

Some other ideas:

1) One year at home, I gave my son a paper palm tree filled with a few little trinkets and treats. You can find directions for making these candy palm trees on the Christian Crafters website.

2) This blogger describes how she sets the table with a ribbon cross and six candles to represent the days of Holy Week. On each day of the week, one of the candles is extinguished until all are out on Holy Saturday. This is a simple project to do, and would not require any special crafting expertise.

3) Palm weaving -- I love this crown of thorns made from palms! I think we will try that this year, and use it to decorate our table on Good Friday.

This website includes palm weaving tutorials, including step by step instructions on making a braid, a cone and a cross.

4) Palm Sunday crafts
You can find coloring pages here and instructions for making a Palm Sunday donkey here.

Finally, how about serving special food on Palm Sunday? Maybe a snack made from anything grown on a palm-type tree -- coconuts, bananas, dates, etc.

Happy Palm Sunday to you and your family!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Make a Holy Week banner

Yesterday I posted information and photos about the Jesus Tree we are using during Lent. Today I thought I would share information about another new tradition that we have started in our home. It is a tradition for Holy Week, running from Palm Sunday through Easter.

I made a simple banner with a length of purple grosgrain ribbon and some pieces of felt. The felt was cut into various shapes to represent the most important days of Holy Week, including:

- a palm leaf for Palm Sunday
- a chalice and host for Holy Thursday
- a cross for Good Friday
- a tomb for Holy Saturday
- a "He is Risen" sun for Easter

Most of these were simple hand-drawn shapes, although I found the "He is Risen" piece inexpensively at Hobby Lobby. I used stiffened felt (also available at craft stores) so the banner will hold up better. The ribbon and pieces have velcro dots on them.

On Palm Sunday, I will hang the banners -- minus the pieces -- on each child's door. Then my son and daughter can attach the palm leaf by matching the velcro dots. The other pieces will be added on each appropriate day throughout the week.

I thought this would be a visual way to mark the importance of Holy Week and help them remember everything that happened.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Our Lenten Jesus Tree -- a new tradition

We began a new Lenten tradition in our home this year. We are using a Lenten Jesus tree, a tradition that is somewhat similar to Advent's Jesse tree custom.

In case you aren't familiar with the Jesse tree, I'll briefly explain. During Advent, one reads an Bible passage each day to trace Jesus' lineage from the time of Abraham to His birth. The observance usually ends on Christmas Eve with the reading of the Nativity story. After each reading, you put a symbolic ornament (representing that day's message) on a small tree. For example, after reading about Moses, you might use an ornament decorated with a picture of stone tablets.

I love this tradition and decided to adapt it for the Lenten season. About half way through Lent, we began reading a New Testament passage about Jesus each day. Our readings started with His baptism in the Jordan River, then moved to His public ministry and to the miracles He performed. It will end next week as we read a passage each day relating to the important events during Holy Week.

I created a small wooden tree that I have hung on the kids' bedroom doors. As you can see from the photos, the tree has bare branches with a few leaf buds (just like the trees appear in early spring around here.) With each reading, the kids are given a green wooden leaf to attach to the tree. (The scripture reading is written on each leaf, as the photo close-up shows.) As our readings grow, so does the beauty of the tree with its growing buds and leaves.

Doing this helps them become more familiar with Jesus' life and the important things He did while on earth. And it's a fun way to learn their faith!

But the fun doesn't stop there! Each week from Easter to Pentecost, the kids will add a decorated wooden egg to their tree, while we read various readings from the Acts of the Apostles.

By the end of May, they will have a nicely blooming, decorated tree on their bedroom doors.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Lenten Book and Activity: Benjamin's Box and Resurrection Eggs

When Lent rolls around, my children eagerly pull the book Benjamin's Box off the shelf and ask me "where are the Resurrection Eggs?" These two items have become synonymous to Lent in our home. I have mentioned both items previously in my CreativeGiftGiver yahoogroup and on the CGG website. Some of my regular readers have asked me to write more about these items and how they can incorporate them into their Lenten observances. I would love to discuss this wonderful tradition a bit more.

Benjamin’s Box is a Zonderkidz book written by Melody Carlson and illustrated by Jack Stockman. The story is built around a young boy named Benjamin who lives in Palestine during Jesus' life. Specifically, the story takes place during the last week of Jesus' life. Benjamin's grandfather has given him a special box where he keeps his treasures. In the beginning of the story, it only contains a piece of straw. His grandfather told Benjamin that the straw came from the bed of a baby who would grow up to be a king. As Benjamin proceeds through the week, he picks up little treasures to add to the box, like a broken cup that was used at a very important meal and a gambling stone used to determine what soldier would get to keep the clothing of a very important person who is being crucified. At the end of the week, he has a box full of bittersweet and joyful memories.

My children love the story because it is told from the perspective of a child about their age. The first time we read it, my son promptly created his own treasure box out of an old shoe box. The story is special by itself, but we have enhanced it even further by using Resurrection Eggs while reading.

Resurrection Eggs are a set of 12 plastic eggs that contain small little trinkets that symbolize the many important events that occurred during Holy Week. Many of the items match those being collected by Benjamin.

We read one page of the story each day. Then one child is allowed to pick out an egg and open it to discover that day's treasure. For example, when Benjamin describes people waving palms while a very important person rides into town on a donkey, my children open the appropriate egg and discover a tiny plastic donkey.

Matching the eggs to the story page is easy. Each egg is a different color and most match the color of the egg on the bottom of each book page. All of the eggs are stored in a plastic egg carton, and its cover also includes a reference list of each egg and its contents.

I love this "hands on" way of learning more about Jesus' passion, death and resurrection. And although many aspects of the story are sad, the book handles it in a child-friendly way. It is not terrifying or scary for young children.

I highly recommend these two items. The eggs provide a "hands-on" way for children to remember the important events of the week. The book gently describes the events of the week without frightening young children, yet the story has enough depth to interest older children, too.

You can pick up the book inexpensively at Click below to read more reviews and information about it:

I purchased my Resurrection Eggs at