Friday, December 10, 2010

A delayed St Nichola craft and SANTA LUCIA!

A bit delayed, but while browsing the Craft Crow for ornament ideas, I came across this lovely St Nicholas Day craft.  Definitely putting it on the shelf for next year!!!

And, now, for one of my FAVORITE Advent days of the year (and, yes, I am biased because I have a very beautiful Lucy Light of my own): St. Lucy's Day (or Santa Lucia!).

You can read about various ways that different cultures celebrate this day over at the Catholic Culture website (a great resource, imho).  We do our own rendition of the Swedish tradition.

After the sun sets in the evening, we have Lucy dress up in a white dress with a red sash and her lovely crown of battery operated candles that her godparents gave her.  She then processes, carrying a plate full of buns shaped in a ring like a crown and gingersnaps, (usually with the help of her siblings) to where we and our guests are sitting and singing Santa Lucia.

This year, we are giving Lucy and her siblings Santa Lucia paper dolls for a gift and will, per usual, tie a red ribbon around a white candle and give one each to our guests in honor of Santa Lucia.

Santa Lucia!  Santa LUCIA!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Happy St. Nicholas Day

I had a sudden thought last night to include a note of encouragement in the girl's St. Nicholas stockings. I hope to remember to do this each year. This time it reads, "Be kind to one another."

We also listened to this podcast of St. Nicholas

Monday, November 29, 2010

Santa Lucia Paper Dolls

For any of you who will be celebrating Santa Lucia on December 13th, here is a link to some paper dolls I found online.  A great gift idea for all the little girls in your family!

For ideas of how to celebrate St. Lucy, look here.  It is a very fun tradition that our family enjoys celebrating each Advent season.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Hail King Edmund

Now, although slacker Ma is on a delayed celebration schedule for Edmund's name-day (which was this past weekend), Grandma had all her ducks in a row and mailed this wonderful King dress-up outfit for the occasion.  Of course, Edmund couldn't wait to try it on.
The real celebration will occur Friday or Saturday this week.  We'll hang the St Edmund flag we bought in England.  We'll eat sticky buns in memory of his sticky end and have St. Edmund story time.  Afterwards, we'll decorate our own crowns to wear that day in honor of the Saint and King.   

What do you do to celebrate your children's name days?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Nativity Fast preparation

Monday, November 15th marks the beginning of the Nativity Fast.  For a more in depth look at some activities and crafts to due during advent, look no further than here.  But, in brief, here are some activities to do with your children throughout the next 40 days to help prepare you hearts for the celebration of Christ's birth.

Remember that each week has a theme: faith, hope, peace, love, repentance and communion.  Light your candle for the week at the beginning of that week and continue lighting until Christmas and through the 12 days (or as long as they last)!  The theme ideas come from Making God Real in the Orthodox Christian Home by Anthony Coniaris. The activities to go with are of my own silly creation!  If you have any other ideas, please do let me know!
1. Make an advent wreath and paper chain, Eastern Orthodox style.
2. For Faith Week, beginning November 15th, sit down as a family and list gifts you'd like to give to the baby Jesus.  Then spend the rest of the Nativity Fast preparing these gifts (whether by making them or saving money for them).  Remember all these gifts, however silly, can be given to people in need.  To give unto someone in need is to give unto Christ.
3.  The Entrance of the Theotokos falls on Sunday, November 21st this year. Check out this activity from our archives.
4. For the second week of the fast (beginning Nov. 21st), make some anchor ornaments to hang around your house.  Anchors are a traditional Christian symbol of hope.  Print out this picture as a template, and cut out card stock or construction paper and let the kids decorate them.  Then hang them around the house or tape them on your windows.
5. For week 3, December 5th, decorate a tree outside!
6.  December 5th, the beginning of Week 4.  Make doves to hang for this  Week of Peace.
7. Monday, December 6th, is St Nicholas day!!!  Don't forget to read stories of St Nick to your kids and fill their shoes with goodies.
8.Week 5, beginning December 12th and the Sunday of our Forefathers.  For this week of repentance, make your candy cane craft and/or join our style of celebrating our Forefathers.  This is when we get our Christmas tree!
9.  Lucy Light!!! Monday, December 13th.  This is a Xmas staple in our family.  Pa's family did it because they are of scandinavian origin, we do it for that reason and because we have a little Lucy of our own.  Even if you don't have a little Lucy, this is a very fun day if you have any girls in your family.   Read more about how you can celebrate this day here.
10. We light the candle for the last week of Christmas on December 19th.  Make gingerbread houses and  talk about how through the sacrament of communion, Christ lives in us.
11.  December 25th!  Christmas Day!  Light your final candle and feast with joy on the day of Christ's birth!

Sunday, October 24, 2010


As I mentioned last year, I know that many Orthodox Christians do celebrate Halloween and many don't. I, personally, see nothing counter-cultural in simply abstaining from Halloween celebrations, but think that doing our best to transform our celebration of Halloween into something holy is the most Christian thing we can do. In addition to last year's suggestions, here are some activities to enjoy with your children:

Dress Up--Next to the candy, this is the most fun part of Halloween, is it not? My advice is to just avoid any dark-themed costumes like vampires, devils and the like.

Pumpkin Carving--I liked Elizabeth and Michelle's idea from last year: carve crosses into your pumpkins. For little children, let them paint the pumpkins. Sure, it's messy but a lot less risky!

Games/crafts--Apple Bobbing, blindfolded 'feely' box (great idea, Elizabeth!), pin the tail on the donkey or some other variation (pin the face on the pumpkin--everyone can be a winner with this one), make popcorn balls, etc. The Crafty Crow has a large selection of Halloween crafts to do (I particularly like the different pumpkin themed crafts).

Trick or Treating--Whether you choose to do this probably depends on your neighborhood and how 'thoroughly' your neighbors get into their decor. We avoid scary homes, but do allow our children to trick or treat. If you choose not to trick or treat, I would suggest doing a variation of an easter egg hunt in your house but hide candy bags instead. Another option would be to give each child some clues and they have to use the clues to figure out where their candy is hidden (this might be helpful in making sure candy is evenly distributed).

Feasting--Feast on caramel apples, hot apple cider, popcorn balls, and other autumn-y treats!

Prayer--Most important of all, say special prayers with your family. I suggest singing 'Christ is risen from the dead' and to say prayers for the departed and light candles for loved ones who have passed from this life.

Happy, holy Halloween!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Prayer and School

One of the benefits of homeschooling is that it is very easy to work prayer into the day. Every school day, we begin with morning prayers followed by saying a prayer before our lessons. It is a wonderful way to start the day and I really believes it helps me to be more patient than my nature otherwise tends to be.

However, not everyone has the luxury or the desire to homeschool and finding prayer time is probably much more difficult to do as a family. I was wondering if any of you have a consistent routine of morning prayers with school children and what kind of routines you have to make that possible. It would be wonderful if you could share them!

I think that prayer is so important before school because it is a reminder that learning is character forming and the disciplines of learning affect our spiritual life. Learning to be diligent and disciplined even if the desire might not be there is of great value and will serve us all well in our spiritual walks. It is important for us parents to help our children incorporate prayer into their daily lives. I know it can be difficult with how busy we can all be, but it is not only good for our individual spiritual health but our families as a whole. To be united in love for Christ is the most incredible treasure a family can have. So let's seek that treasure and hold on to it!

*Don't forget the links on the right have a variety of crafts and activities to do as a family for various feast and fasting periods. My apologies for not having any recent activities to present.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

a good use of time

It was my husband's idea. And the result has been well worth the minimal effort.

On Sunday mornings, even on the mornings where we are running late, my husband writes down the scripture readings for the liturgy and brings a bible to the car. During the drive to church, he reads the passages and explains them to the children.

By the time our children get in the car for the ride home, they have heard the scripture stories 2-3 times. Once in the car. Once during the liturgy. And, nearly every Sunday, once during Sunday School (granted, this is usually the gospel story).

The result: our children often understand key parts in the homily; our children are prepared for Sunday School and return home really having learned something.

I am very thankful for my husband taking the time and effort to do this. Do try it too!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Saints Peter and Paul

Pass the time of your sojourning here in fear (1 Peter 1:17)
I was reading from the Prologue of Ohrid this morning and was struck by the homily of the fear of God on the above verse. At one point he writes:
"Will I be saved? This question should torment every one of us in the same way that the sower is tormented by the question: Will I reap the fruit of my labor in the field? The sower labors and fears every day. Let us also labor and fear "all the time of our sojourning" on earth."
As trite as it may be to say, it is very easy to have anxiety and to fear earthly things. To fear God--that is a struggle. However, it is a struggle we need to embrace and seek that we may have the same boldness as Paul one day and be able to say, "Not I, but Christ liveth in me" (Galatians 2:20).

To celebrate the feast:
Here is a list of activities I compiled last summer for this feast.
In addition to these activities, I have a challenge for all you mothers (and fathers). We all have fears and anxieties we struggle with. I was told during a confession once that it was my duty as a mother not to pass on my fears to my children. What is the first step to doing this? Control your mouth. Do not speak of your fears in front of your children. During your prayers, seek repentance for those earthly fears and ask that the Lord replace them with the holy fear of God. This is what we want to teach our children: to fear the Lord our God.
May the Lord have mercy on us and each of us learn to be driven by the fear of God in our daily lives.

Friday, May 21, 2010


Pentecost is this Sunday--May 23, 2010. I can't believe the Pascal Season is already over with! If you haven't already started hyping this momentous feast, now is the time.  There are lots of great ideas in the archive of this blog which I'm trying not to overlap on.  Make sure to check them out too.

Pentecost is especially exciting for children being that it is the church's birthday and kids love birthdays! Start prepping for this feast by reading the story of Pentecost over and over again--it's helpful for children in church to hear a familiar reading, as well as important for them to know this story. Start brainstorming with your kids about ideas of gifts we can give to the church (money, flowers, candles, icon (depending on your church)) as well as gifts for the poor & others and make sure to follow through with it on Sunday. Perhaps bring a cake to coffee hour and sing "Happy Birthday" to the Church (or have your own party at home).  Reuse your Ascension puppet theater and puppets to put on a Pentecost production. There are so many fun ideas!

It's also an important time to focus on the gifts/ fruit of the Holy Spirit. Whenever the opportunity presents itself, whether at home, driving, watching TV, reading a book, point out examples of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness & self-control. It is actually amazing how often you will see these values manifest in our society. As mentioned previously in this blog, especially focus on one or two and try to think of a creative gift to give your child/children based on this.

The Troparion for the feast is (tone 8):
Blessed art Thou, O Christ our God, Who hast revealed the fishermen as most wise by sending down upon them the Holy Spirit - through them Thou didst draw the world into Thy net. O Lover of Man, glory to Thee!

Singing the Troparion is always a helpful way to establish a church/home connection for kids.  It also provides us with important theological insights about the significance of the feast. In order to make this troparion come alive for children there are many good fishing inspired games to enjoy. For instance, you could make a "go fish" game with the fruit of the Holy Spirit (either words or pictures depicting the word) or create a game in which you use a pole or net to capture fruit of the Holy Spirit fish (little pretend fish with a word or picture on them). Be creative!  This can be lots of fun for us parents too!

May you all have a blessed feast!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Saint Brendan the Voyager

Today is Saint Brendan's Day, and I apologize for not posting this ahead of time so that you could prepare.  It's not too late to celebrate, though!

Another wonderful pre-schism western saint, Brendan the Voyager (b. 484) was a monastic in Ireland who founded many monasteries.  As his title and icon imagery suggest, he was a sailor who traveled around.  He is said to have gone in search of the Land of Paradise.  While the account of his journeys are intended to be of a symbolic and spiritual value, some have conjectured that he may have been one of the first saints to set foot in North America, some say Canada. 

Thus, in French Canadian spirit, serve up some Canadian bacon with French toast cut into simple fish shapes to symbolize simultaneously St. Brendan's ocean travels and also the Christological "ichthys" fish.  Serve breakfast for dinner!  (Or, next year, serve fishy toast for breakfast and Irish fare for dinner.)

You can also play the card game "Go fish!" and make origami boats to sail in the tub at bath time.

Talk to your children about The Water Project and make a donation.

(You can buy the beautiful Orthodox icon featured on the left above from Come And See Icons.  Below is the troparion featured on their website.)

Troparion (Tone 4)
The Divine Likeness has been perfected in thee, O holy Father Brendan, for taking up the Cross thou hast followed Christ, and by thy deeds thou hast taught us to disdain the flesh for it passes away, but to cultivate the soul for it is immortal: wherefore, O holy father, thy spirit rejoices with the Angels.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Vegan Hot Cross Buns

A great fasting-friendly recipe to allow the Orthodox to participate in the Western tradition of Hot Cross Buns:

1 package yeast (or 2 1/4 tsps)
1 cup soy milk
2 tbls vegetable oil
1/4 c sugar
2 tbls applesauce
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 c currants (I like a mixture of raisins and dried cranberries)
2 tbls finely chopped candied lemon peel (or orange). This can be omitted but it is SO good.
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
3 1/3- 3 2/3 c all purpose flour

Mix yeast with 2 tbls warm water (approx 105-115 degrees). Let sit for 5 minutes or so till yeast has dissolved.

Meanwhile, warm the milk to about 105-115 degrees. Stir in vegetable oil, sugar, applesauce, salt, currants, lemon peel, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Cool to lukewarm and add to yeast mixture.

Add part of the flour and stir it in. Then knead in by hand the rest, only adding enough to handle the dough easily.

Place in an oiled bowl. Brush top of dough with vegetable oil. Cover and let sit in a warm place until double.

Punch the dough down and divide into 18 pieces, shaping them into balls. Place about 1 1/2 inches apart on greased baking sheets. Cover and let rise until almost double.

Heat in oven at 425 degrees about 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool.

Decorate with a glaze of powdered sugar and lemon or orange juice into the shape of a cross.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Holy Week Clock

Here is this year's version of our Holy Week clock! I used coloring pages from online (see the links below).

Here are the coloring pages I used for the clock:

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Easy AND Yummy Vegan Recipes

To help guide you through the last week of Lent, here are some easy and yummy vegan recipes, courtesy of Ms. Martha Stewart:

Annunciation of the Theotokos

March 25th (today) marks the annunciation of the Theotokos. It is a feast celebrating the Archangel Gabriel appearing to Mary, announcing that she will bear the son of God. We celebrate both God reaching out to man and Mary's response; a humble obedience we should all emulate.

This is one of the only days during Lent (along with Palm Sunday) when fish is allowed. In the western church, this feast is also referred to as "Lady Day".

Ideas to celebrate:
1. Treat your family to a feast of fish for this celebration.
2. The Liturgical color for this feast is blue; so why not dress appropriately?
3. Read the story of the annunciation (Luke 1:26-38) and have the children memorize the verse, "Be it unto me according to thy word."
4. Here is a simple handprint angel craft. You could also use finger paint for the activity instead of cutting out paper. A bit more messy, but the kids will think it's fun!

May you all have a blessed Feast of the Annunciation.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Holy Week Activities

A friend from college emailed me some links for activities yesterday (thanks, Christa!). One is for making The Hill of Calvary and the other is for making an Easter Tree.

Hill of Calvary
Easter Tree

The latter activity I really like and I thought it would be fun to do a twist on it and put images of the Stations of the Cross on it. You can print out images of art for this (see the stations listed below) or have your kids color these coloring pages of the different stations.
  1. Jesus is condemned to death
  2. Jesus is given his cross
  3. Jesus falls the first time
  4. Jesus meets His Mother
  5. Simon of Cyrene carries the cross
  6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
  7. Jesus falls the second time
  8. Jesus meets the daughters of Jerusalem
  9. Jesus falls the third time
  10. Jesus is stripped of His garments
  11. Crucifixion: Jesus is nailed to the cross
  12. Jesus dies on the cross
  13. Jesus' body is removed from the cross (Deposition or Lamentation)
  14. Jesus is laid in the tomb and covered in incense.
Although this is definitely part of the Western tradition of Christianity and not the Eastern, I think it is a very good way to educate our children in preparation for Good Friday. I would suggest spending the week coloring a page or two each day and putting up the tree on Good Friday.

Another twist on this activity would be to buy a live tree to plant on Pascha in honor of the Life Giving Tree, the Cross.

Do remember that I have other activities listed for Holy Week and the rest of Lent in the archives and that this is a blog that depends on group participation. In other words, please share your ideas! We can all benefit from each other's creativity as we strive to educate our children in the faith.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Lent Begins

Here is something that I posted on my personal blog site for the beginning of Lent. Many of the ideas are basic, but if any help you in your lenten journey this year, Glory to God.

Lent began this afternoon with the Forgiveness Vespers Service. This is our first year in an Eastern-Rite Orthodox Church. I really enjoyed the service today and look forward to encountering more lenten services the weeks ahead.

The focus of lent is truly about fasting from sin, but fasting from certain foods, prayer, and almsgiving are avenues to this end. Here are some of my "tips" or getting through lent. Let me add the disclaimer that I am NOT an expert at fasting. These are just some things that I have found helpful.

1. Pray! Pray like you are really in a battle (it is more real than we know). If I begin the day praying, I have more energy to journey on and am less likely to despair. I suggest Met. Philaret's prayer for the beginning of the day, and the Lenten standard: The Prayer of St. Ephraim (see below). Really embrace the words and keep them with you throughout the day.

2. Go to the extra church services if at all possible. It is SO encouraging to remember that we (the Church) are all in this together. It is easy to get bitter if you feel alone in fasting. Truly, I have found that struggling through Lent with my fellow parishioners glues our community together in a way that nothing else can.

Since Luke doesn't do well at the night services in general, I am going to try to listen to Ancient Faith Radio podcasts during the season. We will try to actually make it to church too, but it may not always be possible. AFR is such a tremendous resource for families to bring the Church into their homes.

3. Have a project. If you are spending less on food, buy extra food for the local food bank, send money to Haiti, etc... Almsgiving really helps fasting make more sense to me. Volunteering works if you cannot give, just have a goal.

4. Find good recipes and recycle them. I always face the temptation of trying out all sorts of recipes and spending hours in the kitchen. As our priest in CA said, Lent is about simplification. The fast is to focus our minds on the spiritual, not on proper meal preparation., Orthodox Mother's Digest , and this site have hosted several fasting recipe swaps.

5. Have a baked potato night each week. Baked potatoes are great, and there is little prep time involved. I like to rub oil on the skins before baking them. They are 10x better this way and it encourages everyone to eat the skin (the best part in my opinion!). Vegans-serve with baked beans, chopped green onions, BBQ sauce, salt, pepper, grilled onions. Vegetarians- use cheese, cottage cheese, butter, sour cream, etc... Homemade pizza once a week is also good, and fun for a Saturday night.

6. Make breakfast easy. I like Emily's idea of having oatmeal every day. For myself, I know that the more I have to think about, the more distracted with food I become. I also like cheese or a homemade energy bar for breakfast.

7. Prep veggies and fruit and dips to have on hand. Tomorrow I will make hummus, ranch dip (160z sour cream + 1 packet dry ranch dressing mix), and cut up a bunch of carrots.

May God bless you all and multiply your efforts to His glory!

Lenten Prayer Of St. Ephrem The Syrian

O Lord and Master of my life!
Take from me the spirit of sloth,
faint-heartedness, lust of power, and idle talk.

But give rather the spirit of chastity,
humility, patience, and love to Thy servant.

Yea, Lord and King! Grant me to see my own errors and not to judge my brother, for Thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Presentation of Christ in the Temple

On February 2 the Church celebrates Christ's presentation in the Temple. In the Western Church it goes by the name of Candlemas and was traditionally the day to take Christmas decorations down. But I don't know much about the Western traditions other than that.

In the East, this feast commemorates Jesus' first visit to the temple (Luke 2:22-39) 40 days after his birth. It was custom to offer a lamb for sacrifice or two doves (if one was too poor for a lamb). Joseph and Mary brought to doves (they were poor) and Jesus--the Lamb of God. St. Simeon and St. Anna, both of whom were very old were there to witness Christ's entrance. The former's prayer (Lord now lettest thy servant depart in peace according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to enlighten the gentiles and the glory of thy people Israel.) is still a staple prayer in the Eastern Church being said at the end of every Vespers and when leaving the Nave.

In our home, we read this story and talk about how special it is to be able to go to church. We also read My Forty Day Blessing Book by Christina Kyriacou which talks about the blessing infants and their mothers receive when they are churched. We look at pictures of my childrens' churchings and talk about how special it is to be welcomed into our church family in this way.
We also bring a special offering to the church-whether it be money or decorations. I always read the kontakion as well as the scripture readings we will hear in church beforehand so that we can talk about their meanings before and after the service.

For a craft I suggest making a lamb and birds out of paper and cotton balls or other decorations. Coloring pictures of the feast's icon is also of value since it allows children to identify this story when they're looking around during church.

Friday, January 29, 2010

St. Brigid of Kildare

This coming Monday, February 1, marks the feast day of St. Brigid of Kildare, Ireland, a pre-schism Western saint, a contemporary of St. Patrick, and also my patron.

St. Brigid "did not take her mind or her attention from the Lord for the space of one hour at any time, but was constantly mentioning Him, and ever constantly thinking of Him, as evident in her own life [. . .] She was very hospitable and very charitable to guests and to needy people. She was humble, and attended to the herding of sheep and early rising, as her life proves [. . .] She spent indeed 74 years diligently serving the Lord, performing signs and miracles, curing every disease, and sickness in general as evident in her own life, until she yielded her spirit, [. . .] A.D. 525 [or] 522, [. . .] and she was buried at D/un in one tomb with Patrick, where Colum Cille was afterwards interred."

It's too late to order it for Monday, but there is a new children's book about St. Brigid with beautiful illustrations written by an Orthodox mom and published by Conciliar Press. (See thumbnail on the right.)

In lieu of the children's book, you can learn more about Saint Brigid online. There are many primary sources available here. (I also wrote a brief tribute to her on my own blog last year; click here to read it.)

Here are several ideas for celebrating her wondrous life of devotion and faith:
  • Make a St. Brigid Cross and hang it over the doorway; keep it there until next year and then replace it with a new one. If you don't have rushes or long grass near you, you can substitute with palm leaves, plastic straws, or something else creative. If you can, take the rushes to church on Sunday to have them blessed by the priest before you make the crosses.
  • In the spirit of St. Brigid's generosity, assemble emergency kits for IOCC (International Orthodox Christian Charities) to send to people in places like Haiti.
  • Collect dandelions, which are sometimes spoken of as "Brigid's Flower."
  • Make wheat- or cross-shaped bread and serve with butter. (For example, see Pain d'Epi recipe in Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, or use an oat bread recipe.) Before she became an abbess, Brigid was a dairy maid.
  • Visit a (dairy) farm and feed the animals.
  • Serve corn beef and cabbage or other hearty Irish dinner, and invite some friends or neighbors to share it with you (perhaps a poor family who cannot afford to eat nice dinners).
  • And don't forget the beer (for the adults, that is)! Brigid is known as the patron saint of beer because of her miraculous multiplying of beer to supply the county churches for Bright week after Pascha.
  • If someone in the family (or one of your guests) has St. Brigid as her patron or namesake, have her wear a white dress and pretend to be the saint knocking at the door saying "Go on your knees, open your eyes, and let Brigid in." The family should answer from within "Greeting, greeting to the noble woman."
  • Pray and sing hymns to St. Brigid, the "Mary of the Gael":
Troparion (Tone 1)
O holy Brigid, thou didst become sublime through thy humility, and didst fly on the wings of thy longing for God. When thou didst arrive in the Eternal City and appear before thy Divine Spouse, wearing the crown of virginity, thou didst keep thy promise to remember those who have recourse to thee. Thou dost shower grace upon the world, and dost multiply miracles. Intercede with Christ our God that He may save our souls.

(Saint Bride painting by John Duncan)

Bonny Saint Brigid, pray for us!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Spring Cleaning Preparations

Lent is quickly approaching. Valentine's Day marks Forgiveness Sunday and Clean Monday follows directly!

In the past, I've used Clean Monday as a "Spring Cleaning" Day, but it really wasn't an adequate amount of time. Start NOW with the purging and be done before Lent. When getting rid of stuff, think of how you might bless others with things you don't need or want. Maybe some old clothes to give to a homeless person? Some toys for some children you know who might be less fortunate? Some books for students?

On Clean Monday, read Is 1:1-20. Talk to your children about how just like we need to clean our bodies and our houses regularly so that they don't get dirty and grimy, we also need to cleanse our hearts and minds. Clean something that is dirty to demonstrate visually the need for cleaning. Then talk about how we need to put away wicked thoughts, feelings, habits, etc. These are the things that dirty us. Talk about how we do this through repentance, prayer, fasting, almsgiving and mediation of the scriptures. It is only by putting on Christ that we can truly be holy.

Another activity we plan on doing on Clean Monday is to make a "Kyra Sarakosti" (a Lady Lent). Cut out a paper doll. The doll has no mouth (because she is fasting), her hands are joined in prayer, and she has a long skirt with 7 feet for the 7 weeks of Lent. Let the children decorate the paper doll. On each Saturday during Lent, cut off a foot. On the last Saturday, Holy Saturday, insert the foot into a dried fig and tradition has it that it brings luck to the finder.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Quick Theophany/ Epiphany ideas

After two weeks of travel, it dawned on me this morning that Theophany was tomorrow and that our liturgy for it was tonight, so I quickly pulled myself together and this is what I came up with.

1. First, my pre-schooler and I read through the Old Testament stories of Creation, the Flood, the crossing of the Red Sea, the Children of Israel crossing the Jordan and Jonah and the Whale. We also read the NT stories about Jesus' baptism, calling the fishermen, and walking on the water. We read from a toddler Bible (stories are short) and I edited the stories as we went. We talked about how God blessed the water, motifs of cleansing, tried to make connections with the stories and focused specifically on how Jesus blessed the water by being baptized in it (as much as one can do with a three-year-old). As my boys get older and I don't have to rely on Children's Bibles (and/or I have more time) we'll read all of the stories which we will be hearing in the service tonight which include the washing of Naaman, Elijiah being taken up and Elisha crossing the Jordan just to name a few!

2. We also looked at the icon for Theophany and photos of my sons' baptisms and discussed them as well. My first son was actually baptized on Theophany 3 years ago, so it is also a special anniversary for us to remember.

3. We sang the troparion for Theophany over and over again (Byzantine-tone 1: When thou oh lord was baptized in the Jordan worship of the Trinity was made manifest/ for the voice of the Father bore witness to thee calling thee his beloved son/ and the Spirit in the likeness of a dove confirmed the truth of his word/ oh Christ our God who hath appeared and enlightened the world glory to thee) and also the baptismal hymn "As Many as have been baptized into Christ"

4. Finally we made a very quick version of a Kings Cake. I used a Trader Joe's Apple Bread mix I had lying around, letting my son help me by hiding a nut in it. I cooked it in a bunt cake pan to keep the appearance of a crown and decorated the top of the cake with blue icing (made from powdered sugar, butter, milk and food coloring) and Swedish Fish candy (we had it left over from Halloween). I want to learn more about the cake traditions for next year, but I wanted to start it now. I added the blue icing to look like water and the fish are pretty obvious. We're going to take the cake to church to enjoy with others after the service tonight. My son is so excited about finding the nut--what a fantastic idea!

Thankfully our church will also be blessing the Ocean water this coming Sunday so it will allow for more learning and fun to continue despite my lack of planning!

I wish all of you a Blessed Feast!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Kings Bread

[Updated January 2011]

Ma Torg has graciously invited me to be a periodic contributor here at the Liturgical Year for Little Ones, and I am honored to accept.

I thought I'd dive in with a recipe for your Twelfth Night/Epiphany/Theophany celebration. I know Ma Torg has shared fun ideas for a Twelfth Night party on her other blog.

For now, I'll just offer a simplified recipe for Kings Bread, so called after the three "kings" or magi, the first gentiles to worship the child Jesus as King, God, and Savior of all the nations. Kings bread is formed in a ring or crown shape with jewel-colored candied fruit toppings.

I've adapted a more traditional recipe using the high-moisture method of the excellent Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day cookbook by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Fran├žois. (And, oh my goodness, I am now drooling over their newer book, Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Whole grains, baby! Whole grains! But I digress.)

The wonderful features of the high-moisture method are (1) mix dough one day and bake another, (2) no kneeding needed!

I'm still experimenting with this recipe, so improvements may be posted later. Let me know if you have any tips.

Kings Bread
Mix in a 5-quart bowl or a lidded (not airtight) container:
  • 3/4 C lukewarm water
  • 1/2 T salt
  • 1 T granulated yeast (1 packet)
  • 1/4 C honey
  • 1/2 C (one stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 t lemon extract
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1 t lemon zest
Mix in without kneading, using a spoon or stand mixer with dough hook:
  • 3 & 3/4 C unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 C chopped mixed candied fruit, and/or cranberries and golden raisins
  • 1/4 C chopped almonds and/or other nuts
Cover (not airtight) and rest at room temperature (or in a warmed oven) until the dough rises and collapses, about 2 hours. Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container to chill. Use when chilled and within five days.

When you're ready to bake, grease a baking sheet with a small amount of
  • butter.
Insert into the chilled dough
  • 1 whole almond, 1 raw bean, or 1 well-washed penny.
Dust dough with
  • flour
and quickly form into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. Place the ball on the baking sheet, seam side down. Make a four-inch hole in the center and push dough into a ring. Butter the outside of a three or four-inch custard dish and set in the hole.

Loosely cover the dough with oiled plastic wrap and let rest in a warm place for 1 hour and 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375┬║.

Remove plastic wrap and brush the loaf with
  • 1 egg beaten with
  • 1 t water.
Press dough lightly with more
  • whole candied fruit/cranberries/golden raisins and
  • whole nuts and/or sliced blanched almonds
Sprinkle top with
  • 1/4 C sugar.
Bake in the center of the oven for 20 to 30 minutes or until golden browned on the outside and hollow sounding when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

Whoever gets the whole almond/bean/penny in his or her slice of bread can either be king/queen of the Twelfth Night party, or be the one to bring a baby Jesus doll in christening gown on Candelmas (a western tradition--I'm the Western Rite dark horse that Ma Torg is trotting out--Hope you all don't mind my western ways), or be the one to host the Twelfth Night/Epiphany party next year.

Happy and blessed festivities to you all!