Friday, November 30, 2007

Week 4: Peace (color: white, Dec. 9th)

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
Luke 2:14
Here's another reminder: I suggest purchasing the book I mentioned in my previous post. It contains evening readings for the Sundays in Advent, suggested hymns to sing, special prayers and discussion topics pertinent to the readings.

For the Little Ones: Do this fun paper dove craft together.

Paper plate
Two plastic spoons
Rubber band

Time needed: Under 1 Hour
1. Cut the plate in half, then cut one half into three equal wedges. Tape one wedge to the bottom of the intact half. 2. Draw the bird's face on one spoon with the markers. Then sandwich the pebble between the two spoon bowls and bind them with the rubber band. 3. Tape the spoons to the bottom of the paper plate half.

Tips: To fly, throw like a paper airplane. Adjust the pebble size to improve flight.

St. Nicholas the Wonderworker (December 6th)

Stuff those stockings today!!!! So much of American Christmas tradition is wound around the figure of St. Nicholas. I fondly remember as a child leaving out home baked cookies for Santa Claus and eagerly awaiting opening my stocking in the morning. But, I digress. To learn about the real St. Nicholas on whom all of this fun tradition is based, you can look no further than here. This site has great ideas for celebrating this Saint, some of which I've included below.

For the Little Ones: On December 5th, read the story of St. Nicholas and have your children help you prepare some cookies to set out before bedtime (for vegan, fast friendly cookie recipes, see here.) Listen to fun Christmas music about Santa Claus while you bake (and enjoy when the kids are in bed!). In the morning, have stockings or shoes for your children set out filled with the tradition St. Nicholas treats (chocolate coins or pennies, apples, oranges and nuts). Then, take your children to pick out a gift to give to someone less fortunate (you might know someone, or donate it to a toy drive). Have your children color some St. Nicholas pages (see here) and pass them out to neighbors along with candy canes.*

*Candy Canes *These are really candy croziers, one of St. Nicholas' symbols. All bishops carry staffs, hooked at the top like a shepherd's crook, showing they are the shepherds who care for, or tend, their people.St. Nicholas Day Blessing of Candy Canes

Friday, November 16, 2007

Week 3: Love (color: gold, December 2nd)

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

For the Little Ones: It is believed that St. Boniface was the first to establish the fir tree as a Christian symbol. He referred to the triangular shape as a symbol of the trinity, the evergreens as a symbol of eternity, with the branches pointing towards heaven. Hence its being seen as a symbol of the Christ child who brought us eternal life.

Now we like to wait until the feast of our forefathers to buy a Christmas tree for indoors in honor of my husband's name day, Jesse and the Jesse tree (it also is better to wait if you want your tree to survive the 12 days of Christmas celebration!). So this week help your children to decorate a Christmas tree outside for the animals instead! Invite neighbors to help. Talk about how the tree is a symbol of eternal life and the love that God has for us (John 3:16). Buy a living Christmas tree or decorate a tree you already have outside (it doesn't necessarily have to be a fir tree). String berries or other fruit and popcorn. Place pieces of bread on the branches. Hang birdseed in small paper cups. Smear peanut butter on crackers and place on branches. Then watch the animals feast away!

Week 2: Hope (color: Blue, November 25th)

This is also my goddaughters nameday (St. Catherine)! I will hopefully post more on that later. But will now restrict my post to the second Sunday in the Nativity Fast. That which begins the week of Hope.

Luke 1:29-33
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."

For the little ones: A traditional Christian symbol of hope is the anchor (as St. Paul writes, "We have this [our faith in God] as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul..." Hebrews 6:19). It ranks among one of the most common symbols in the catacombs. Moms, get thin pieces of cardboard and trace/draw an anchor onto it. Cut out the anchor shape so that a stencil remains. Buy/make some washable window paint in various colors and get some sponges. First, have your children help clean the window(s) they'll get to paint on. Then give each of your children a stencil and a sponge and help them to paint anchors onto your windows for decoration during Hope week (or the entire Nativity fast, if you wish!).

Another project is to do a science-like demonstration. Have your children help you make a toy boat. You can make one out of a clean Styrofoam meat tray (or a cut up take out container). Insert a straw into the tray for a mast and tape triangular sails (cut from construction paper) to the straw. Tie a string to the bottom of the straw and let hang. Fill your bathtub with water and place the boat in. Have your children help you make waves in the water through splashing with your hands (or do this demonstration during bath time!). Talk about how the boat moves all over the place and can't hold steady. Then tie a rock to the end of the string and show your children how it anchors the boat in place. Direct the conversation to talking about how our faith in God is an anchor that holds us in place as we struggle in this world.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple (Nov. 21)

According to the book of St. James, Mary entered the temple at age 3 and remained there for nine years. The priest Zacharias placed her in the Holy of Holies and the grace of God descended upon her. On this feast we celebrate that, like Mary, we too are the house and tabernacle of the Lord.

Readings: Hebrews 9:1-7; Luke 10:38-42; 11:27-28.

For the little ones: Get rolls of construction paper. Unroll and cut slightly longer than child's height. Have child lay down on paper and trace his/her body. Explain how our body's our temples for the holy spirit who dwells inside us. Draw/trace a dove in the middle of the body. Have your child color his body. Help the child to memorize

1 Corinthians 6:19, "...your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you"

Week one: Faith (color: green, Sunday, Nov 18th)

Readings: Again, I suggest purchasing the book I mentioned in my previous post. It contains evening readings for the Sundays in Advent, suggested hymns to sing, special prayers and discussion topics pertinent to the readings.

For the Little Ones: Begin the season right and have your family make a Christmas gift for Jesus. Ask your children what they'd like to give Christ for Christmas. Make a list and spend the season preparing these gifts. Remember that all items, however silly they may seem (like a doll) would be appreciated by someone in need.

In the Orthodox Church, the Nicene Creed is often referred to as the symbol of our Faith. Help your children to learn the Nicene Creed (if they don't already know it). Talk about it with them. Help them to make a picture book with the words of different portions of the creed written on each page. I love the description of God as being 'Light of Light' in the creed. So, use this week to decorate candles and give a gift of 'light' to friends and family members. Include with the gift a copy of the creed. See here for a kid-friendly candle craft. And, remember, the point is to have let your kids go crazy and bring out those aprons to help manage the mess!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Advent Preparation List

I know it's crazy, but Advent is almost here! November 15th is a short two weeks away. Assuming your life is a least half as crazy as mine (3 kids 3 and under), then you will need at least two weeks to start getting ready.

First things first, I recommend that everyone buys Making God Real in the Orthodox Christian Home by Anthony Coniaris. I've found this to be a great resource. It gives good ideas for discussion topics for families regarding feasting, fasting and other various Christian topics (death, sex ed, etc.). It also has a great Advent section telling how to make an Orthodox Advent wreath and my favorite part (which I will not be printing on this blog...hence your need to buy the book) is that for every Sunday of Advent, this book lists readings, prayers, hymns to sing and discussion topics pertinent to the day.

The first big project for us all is to purchase the necessary craft material for Advent. I will spend the next couple of weeks listing the various projects I've planned out for Advent and the materials needed. I will also include directions for making an Advent Wreath adapted for the Orthodox Christian family. Please feel free to leave any suggestions you have to help present Advent to little children!

Advent Wreath materials:
A large styrofoam wreath (space will be needed for seven candles)
Evergreen branches (fake or real)
Colored candles (at least one each dependent on whether you think you'll be lighting candles every night): green, blue, gold, white, purple and red. Michael's carries candles in these colors. If you can't find colored candles, you may purchase white candles and the appropriatedly colored ribbons to tie around.
A paschal candle (one remaining from Pascha or another one similar too. Or just a plain white one.)

Directions: Place candles in the styrofoam wreath in the order listed above. Now, my preference is to place a large, white 'paschal' candle in the middle, but you may also include it in the ring. Lay evergreen branches around candles to cover styrofoam. Another option would be to by a large evergreen wreath and 6-7 candle holders. Place the candles in the holders and arrange in the wreath.

Advent paper chain:
Construction paper in the various colors corresponding to the candles (for gold paper, you might need to use wrapping paper. That or you can substitute yellow or orange.) Cut the paper into strips. Tape strips into a ring, interlocking them as you go. Due to the timing of Advent this year, you'll need the following number of strips for each color and place them in the following order, taking them off one by one on each evening in Advent. Now, I like the idea of hanging the chain from a star that will remain for Christmas Day but you may do as you please. (:

Green--10 strips (because Nov 15th isn't a Sunday, you will have extra strips of this color)
Blue--7 strips
Gold--7 strips
White--7 strips
Purple--7 strips
Red--2 strips

**If you have readers, you can use your computer and print out a bible verse on each strip to be read each night when taken off.

More to follow soon!