Sunday, March 25, 2007

Lazarus Saturday to Pascha: A compilation of activities to guide your little ones through Holy Week

This upcoming Saturday marks the official end of Lent and on the next day Palm Sunday ushers in Holy Week. So, we will be very busy very soon! I am posting all my ideas to carry you through Holy Week at once so that you can spend this week getting prepared.

Lazarus Saturday

This Saturday we will commemorate the miracle of Christ raising Lazarus from the dead. We witness His power over death and see it as a foreshadowing of his death and resurrection. We celebrate this day and the following before entering into the most solemn week of the year.

Readings: Hebrews 12:28-13:8; John 11:1-45

For the little ones: Most churches have a clean-up day following the morning liturgy on Holy Saturday. Be sure to participate! Help other parents participate by volunteering to watch their children. Have the children assist in folding the Palm crosses for the Palm Sunday service.

Palm Sunday

This is a joyous feast! On this day we celebrate Christ as our King and our Lord! Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!

Readings: Philippians 4:4-9; John 12:1-18

For the little Ones: Everyone will receive palm crosses at church today. Bring those crosses home, place them on your family altar and say a prayer together as a family. Today is a feast day...celebrate as such! As part of the celebration, play pin the tail on the donkey with the little ones. For food, you may follow a few different cultural traditions: Greeks usually feast on fish on Palm Sunday; the English on figs (they also refer to it as Fig Sunday); and in Wales they call it Flowering Sunday in reference to the fig tree and serve Split Pea soup or 'Pease Porridge' to symbolize the humility of humanity.

The Bridegroom Services

These services held on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evening are actually the matins services for the following day. They are referred to as the Bridegroom services in reference to the parable of the 10 Virgins. We pray in expectation of He who is coming. We wait in watchfulness and readiness.

Readings: Holy Monday – Matthew 21:18-43; Holy Tuesday – Matthew 22:15-46, 23:1-39; and Holy Wednesday – John 12:17-50).

For the Little Ones: What better way to show the children that we're being 'watchful' than by making a special Holy Week clock? Instead of having the usual hours of the day, mark the clock with the different days of Holy Week. At the beginning of each day, have the children change the hand on the clock.

Holy Unction (Wednesday)

At this service, you are anointed with oil and the grace of God is called upon to heal the soul and the body.

Readings: There are seven sets of readings for this day.
James 5:10-16; Luke: 10:25-37
Romans 15:1-7; Luke 19:1-10
I Corinthians 12:27-31;13:1-8; Matthew 10:1,5-8
II Corinthians 6:16-18, 7:1; Matthew 8:14-23
II Corinthians 1:8-11; Matthew 25:1-13
Galatians 5:22-6:2; Matthew 15:21-28
I Thessalonians 5:14-23; Matthew 9:9-13

For the little ones: In honor of my husband's part Swedish heritage, let us follow an old Swedish custom! It is not necessarily religious but we can twist it up a bit. (: It is traditional on Maundy/holy Thursday for kids to dress up like hags and pay visits to the neighbors leaving specially decorated Easter letters/cards, hoping for a coin or a sweet in return. I am not asking you to dress up your children as hags! However, why not write some kind notes to your neighbors (or, if your children are old enough, have them write some letters) and have the little ones decorate the cards. Then, tomorrow on Holy Thursday, the children can take the Easter letters to the neighbors (if you are feeling generous, you can always send a bottle of wine and/or a loaf of bread with the cards in remembrance of the Last Supper).

Holy Thursday

Tonight we remember the washing of the disciples feet, the Last Supper, Garden of Gethsemane and Judas' betrayal.

Exodus 19:10-18; Job 38:1-21, 42:1-5; Isaiah 50:4-11; I Corinthians 11:23-32; and Matthew 26:2-20; John 13:3-17; Matthew 26:21-39; Luke 22:43-45; Matthew 26:40-27:2.

For the little ones: Remember to drop off your Easter cards! Then have your own 'last supper'. Have dad wash the feet of the family members before a supper of bread and wine/grape juice. During the supper, read the story of the Last Supper from a children's bible or tell it in your own special way.

Good Friday

Today we commemorate the death of Christ on the cross.

John 13:31–18:1, John 18:1-29, Matthew 26:57-75, John 18:28 - 19:16, Matthew 27:3-32, Mark 15:16-32, Matthew 27:33-54, Luke 23:32-49, John 19:38-42, Mark 15:43-47, John 19:38-42, Matthew 27:62-66

For the little ones: Moms: make Hot Cross buns for breakfast. You can make a dairy free dough and mix powdered sugar with lemon juice if you are following the vegan fast. Dress in black today. Prepare your Easter eggs as well. Have the children help you dye hard-boiled or hollowed eggs red. The egg symbolizes life and the red symbolizes the blood of Christ. Make plenty!!! Bring some to church for Holy Pascha and set aside the rest for an Easter egg hunt and to give to neighbors.

Holy Saturday

Today we remember the burial of Christ and his descent into hell. We celebrate the liturgy of St. Basil in the morning, focusing on Christ's grave.

"He (Christ) gave Himself as a ransom to death in which we were held captive, sold under sin. Descending into Hades through the Cross ... He loosed the bonds of death" (Liturgy of St. Basil).

I Corinthians 5:6-8 and Matthew 27:62-66.

For the little ones: On a side note, make sure everyone gets good naps today because tonight is going to be a long night. This will be a busy day for mom. It is time to prepare all the foods you will be taking in your Easter basket to church tonight. Fill the basket with favorite foods your family has been fasting from. Let the children each pick one of their favorite foods they have been missing. Let them help you make these foods or (if you prefer to have them out of the way!) have dad help the kids make a banner to hang for Pascha. Have the banner say "Christ is risen!"


And now we come to what we have all been waiting for: we come to celebrate that CHRIST IS RISEN!!! For those of you unfamiliar with the Easter Rite Orthodox Pascha celebration, check this out. It is going be a long day, starting at 10 p.m. or so the night before!!! We celebrate into the wee hours of the morning and then return to church again around noon for Agape Vespers. At the Agape service, we read the gospel in as many languages as can be represented by parishioners.

Readings: Acts 1:1-8 and John 1:1-17

For the little ones: It is traditional to wear new clothing to the Holy Feast of Pascha. The new clothing represents the new life brought by the resurrection of Christ. After the service, break the fast and celebrate the resurrection of Christ with your brothers and sisters in Christ for as long as you can handle (and still drive home safely (:)!

On Easter Sunday, everyone has various family traditions. We will be having an Easter egg hunt for our girls and will be giving them Easter baskets with their first bibles, some candy and a small cross. We will also all play the silly egg roll game (think, the stone being rolled from the tomb!). We will then feast with some friends on grilled lamb, Easter bread and other various side-dishes and desserts. Before the meal, we will greet one another with our red eggs, cracking them while exchanging the Paschal greeting ("Christ is Risen!" "Truly he is risen!") and then enjoy them with our meal.

For the next 40 days, light a white candle at the dinner table and sing the Easter hymn: "Christ is risen from the dead and by his death has trampled death and to those in the tombs he has granted life."


Phyllis said...

Thank you for the work you put into this blog! We'll be doing this idea for sure:
"For the next 40 days, light a white candle at the dinner table and sing the Easter hymn."

Phyllis said...

Oh, I did have a question: do you sing the hymn in English in your family? If so, what does it sound like? I only know it in Russian.

Kelly said...

I am not musical enough to describe what it sounds like in english! But, yes, we do sing it in English. We are American converts to Orthodoxy and attend an Antiochian church where it is sung interchangeably in English and Arabic. You could just use the Russian tune and put the English words to it.

'Christ is risen from the dead and by his death has trampled death and unto those in the tomb he has granted life.'

Phyllis said...

I added something more: a paper chain with 40 links. We'll tear one off every night. It gives a visual of what 40 days is, since our children are still very little.

Grace said...

I am interested if you know a Swedish version of Easter bread? I have some Swedish heritage also and like to weave it in when I can! Thanks!

Michelle M. said...

This is such a great list. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

what a wonderful blog - it will be so helpful to our sunday school as well as in our home.
this year one of our holy week projects was making a pascha candle. we got a white candle and gold "letter" stickers and stuck on the candle Christ is Risen and then tied a beautiful ribbon on the bottom and bought some fake flowers to tie at the bottom as well. It was so beautiful. I loved lighting it each night! We also made resurrection butterflies from tissue paper, pipe cleaners & clothes pins. We cut the tissue paper (6 pieces of different colors in different sizes) pushed them up the clothes pin and the twirled a pipe cleaner as the antennas. It was so fun as well!