We have much to learn from the saints, as do our Sunday Church School students. It is important for us to help the children learn about those who have fought the good fight and finished the race before them. There are many ways to do so. One way that is both educational and fun is for your parish to host a saints festival.
Every saints festival should have a theme. For example, one can have as its theme one specific saint’s life. Another festival may focus on a story from scripture that includes a variety of saints. Or perhaps the festival will celebrate many saints by learning about a theme such as faithfulness, featuring stories from various saints’ faithfulness. When planning a saints festival, the theme will drive the activities, so select the theme carefully!
Some parishes encourage children to arrive at the festival dressed as a favorite saint. They may even have a “parade of saints” and allow the children to tell everyone else a little about the saint whom they are emulating. This extends the learning by having the children learn more about a saint, pre-festival, and allowing them to learn from each other during the festival.
Regardless of whether the children dress up or not, plan a variety of activities for the festival. Included in the activities should be a story from scripture or the life/lives of (a) saint(s); related games/activities; a snack (which could also be related, if you have creative people in your parish); and a related craft. Some parishes have also included doing service projects that fit with the theme. Others have invited various parishioners to tell about their work and how the saints help them with it. There are a myriad of ideas and possible ways to extend the learning. While planning, keep in mind two important considerations: 1. How does this activity help to communicate the theme for the festival? Does this particular activity help to teach the theme? and 2. Are we helping children with a variety of learning styles to learn in their favorite way, in these activities? Are the activities varied enough?
The saints festival can be simple or elaborate: depending on the planners and how much time they wish to spend in preparation. Much more important than intricate decorations or flashy games is the theme of the event and how each activity helps to teach the children about an aspect of that theme. Active involvement will translate into lasting learning.
There are so many saints whose lives are great examples for us! Adults and children alike can benefit from learning about their lives! Let us do what we can to learn from them, and find ways to teach the children in our care about them as well, so that we can all work to become more like them; and ask them to intercede on our behalf.
Through the prayers of our holy fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
Following are ideas for hosting a saints festival:
St. John Chrysostom Antiochian Orthodox Church in York, PA once held a “heavenly” saints festival, featuring the stories of various saints. There was “heavenly” themed food and decor, and a variety of activities. Read the description at http://www.antiochian.org/1163373420 .
St. Nicholas Cathedral in Brooklyn, NY turned their saints festival “parade” presentations into a quiz competition for the audience, to see which side could correctly answer the most questions about the saints which the children presented. See pictures of the costumes and read more at http://www.antiochian.org/1155500905 .
St. John Chrysostom Antiochian Orthodox Church in York, PA hosted a saints festival based on the theme “Fishers of Men.” Read about the activities (including a story, song, craft, games, and related snack) at http://www.antiochian.org/outofthebox/saintsfestival .
An idea for a saints festival theme: Teach the children about St. Phanourios. http://myocn.net/tradition-thanks-st-phanourios-finds/ can help you to make a St. Phanourios cake to share. Game ideas include “Sardines,” “Hide and Seek,” a scavenger hunt, or even a version of hide and seek where you have hidden items around the room ahead of time and the children must find them (instead of finding people as in regular “Hide and Seek”). For a craft, have the kids each make their own “lost and found” game such as http://www.catholicinspired.com/2010/11/st-anthony-lost-and-found-game.html, only smaller (as suggested here http://www.kidspot.com.au/cute-diy-find-it-jars/ ). Be sure to pre-print and perhaps even laminate the list of items they’ll be putting into the jar, so that they have a nice game (the jar and the list) to take home with them. Every time they play it, they will be able to remember St. Phanourios and how he helps people find lost things!
Here are a few game ideas for a general saints festival celebrating the lives of many saints:
- Create your own “Saints Bingo” boards with saints that you have studied together, and play. See http://showerofroses.blogspot.com/2011/10/all-saints-bingo-30-card-printable.html for a Roman Catholic version, as inspiration.
- Make a scavenger hunt (for older students, or students working in multi-age small groups). Post people holding icons of the saints around the room. Each person holding an icon should know a bit about the saint; especially the part that is being asked about in the scavenger hunt. Students are given a handout of questions, fill-in-the-blank style, and need to find the answers to complete their hunt. See http://showerofroses.blogspot.com/2012/10/all-saints-scavenger-hunt-printable.html, a Roman Catholic version, for question ideas.
- Make “I Spy the Saints” collages. Divide the group into smaller groups. Assign each smaller group a saint, and have them collect a variety of items representing that saint. They can arrange the items in a collage, mixing in other items if needed. Have the groups each make an “I Spy” list of things for people to look for in their collage. Groups can then go around looking at the other groups’ collages and trying to find all the things on the list. (For added fun after the event, photograph each collage, type up the “I Spy” lists, and print the photos and lists into small books for the children to keep.) (Inspired by http://www.catholicinspired.com/2012/05/catholic-i-spy-fun-for-all-ages.html .)