Category Archives: Holidays

Pascha Celebration Resources for Sunday Church School Teachers

Pascha is the Feast of Feasts! It is a time of the year like no other. That is as it should be, for it is when we celebrate the most important thing that there is to be celebrated: the resurrection of our Lord, and His trampling down death itself by His own death! Let us celebrate accordingly, and find ways that help to communicate to our Sunday Church School students how important this festal celebration is!

We have gathered a few links in case you are looking for additional ways to set this feast apart with your students. We hope that these ideas enhance what you already have planned to do, and  to teach them about the celebration. May we all be granted to see His glorious Resurrection once again, and may we help our students to celebrate well alongside us. May the Light of Christ indeed illumine us all!

Blessed Pascha! Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is risen!

 

Here are some resources that may be helpful to you as you teach your Sunday Church School students about Pascha:

Prepare these for your Sunday Church School students, and give them as a gift that will help your students retell the Paschal story. Model it with them, and then give them each a set of their own. Or, if you’d rather, provide the supplies and help them assemble their own kit after exploring yours with you. http://www.annunciationakron.org/phyllisonest/pdf/%23%202007%20Pascha%20Eggs%20Booklet%202.pdf

Have an “egg hunt” with purpose: First, the children find all the plastic eggs you’ve hidden. Then, they open them to find pieces of the Paschal story inside each one. Finally, they work together to put the story in order. Find the printable story (written at a middle-elementary reading level) here: http://www.annunciationakron.org/phyllisonest/pdf/Pascha%20Egg%20Hunt%20w%20Message.pdf

Read the book “Catherine’s Pascha” together as a Sunday Church School class. Then create a related craft such as covers for the students’ Pascha baskets or Pysanky eggs. Find these and other ideas here: http://www.catherinespascha.com/book-activities/

If you have young students, consider printing these figures on cardstock, cutting them out, laminating them, and using clay or playdough to help them stand. You can use them to tell the story of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection. And then the children can use them for retelling play! You may want to make a set for each student to take home with them. Read more here: http://www.1plus1plus1equals1.net/2015/04/easter-story-printables/

Help your students to practice answering the resurrection greeting in a variety of languages. Find a lot of them here: http://oca.org/orthodoxy/paschal-greetings. Together make a bookmark that can serve as a “cheat sheet” which the students can keep in their Holy Week book (if they have one). Include all the languages that your priest will use during the service, all the languages spoken in your parish, or all the languages spoken in your region. Have your students use different colors of ink to write “Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!” in each language.

Find more ideas here: https://www.pinterest.com/aodce/pascha/

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A Few Christmas Books to Share With Children

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

When you meet with your Sunday Church School students again, (for some of you, anyway) Christmas Day will be passed. But Christmas will not nearly be over: there are 12 days for us to celebrate this feast! Consider continuing your celebration of the Nativity of Christ by sharing books with your Sunday Church School students! Here are a few to consider (in no particular order):

“God Gave Us Christmas” by Lisa Tawn Bergren follows a little polar bear who asks Mama Polar Bear a myriad of questions about Christmas and where it came from. http://lisatawnbergren.com/books/god-gave-us-christmas/

“Little Star” by Anthony DeStefano is the charming tale of a tiny star who gave of himself to light the stable when Christ was born… and is now remembered by some when they place a star atop their Christmas tree. http://anthonydestefano.com/landing/blogs/LittleStar_01.htm

“The Christmas Baby” by Marion Dane Bauer is the story of the birth of the very special baby, Christ, and all who celebrated His nativity. http://www.mariondanebauer.com/bkpages/bk_christmasbaby.html

“Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect” by Richard Schneider is a heartwarming parable about a little evergreen tree whose self-sacrifice mars its perfection; but also makes it most beautiful in the eyes of the Queen, who takes it home as her royal Christmas tree. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42288.Why_Christmas_Trees_Aren_t_Perfect

“Angels and Other Strangers” by Katherine Paterson is a collection of nine delightful Christmas stories by the Newbery-award winning author.

http://katherinepaterson.com/books/angels-and-other-strangers/

“The Pine Tree Parable” by Liz Curtis Higgs is the simple story of a farmer’s wife who raises the perfect Christmas tree on their tree farm, and eagerly anticipates enjoying its beauty in her home for Christmas. When the time comes to cut the tree, she selflessly gives it to a penniless family instead, and receives the blessing of great joy.

http://www.lizcurtishiggs.com/childrens-books-by-liz/

 

Ideas for Keeping Our Focus on the Nativity of Christ

We are now well on our way to the end of the Nativity Fast. Very soon we will be celebrating the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord. In the cultural “hustle and bustle” of Christmas, it is easy for us to be overcome by busyness and we can lose sight of what we are celebrating: the coming of Christ to earth, God incarnate! Let us find ways to focus on that, and prepare to celebrate it with great joy! Here are a few ideas that will help us to keep the Nativity of Christ at the forefront of our celebration. Most can be easily used in the Sunday Church School setting. 

Educational ideas:

Teachers of young students may want to use this printable pdf, full of Nativity-themed coloring pages and practice words (free for personal use, so ask permission before using it in your SCS classroom) : http://www.mamaslearningcorner.com/nativity-coloring-pages/

Make your own Nativity coloring book for your students! Print these 24 coloring pictures with quotes from the gospels that work together to tell the story of the Nativity: http://www.dltk-bible.com/advent/index.htm

Find other Nativity-themed coloring pages here: http://www.activityvillage.co.uk/nativity-colouring-pages

Teachers of young students will be glad to find action rhymes and finger plays related to the Nativity (among others) here: http://www.theholidayzone.com/christmas/action.html

Find a Nativity-themed word search geared at upper elementary students here: http://www.theholidayzone.com/christmas/puzzles/The_First_Christmas.html

Older students and adults will enjoy reading and pondering the poems in this collection which are Nativity themed: http://www.theholidayzone.com/christmas/christmas-poetry.html

Print this Nativity-themed word scramble to challenge your students: http://www.theholidayzone.com/christmas/puzzles/One_Night_In_Bethlehem.pdf

Craft/play ideas:

Make these simple popsicle stick puppets for young children to use in their play: http://biblelovenotes.blogspot.com/2011/03/play-friendly-nativity.html

Print this charming Nativity set on cardstock for your children to color, cut, and play with: http://madebyjoel.com/2012/12/paper-city-nativity-scene.html. Or, if you prefer, this one: http://media.focusonthefamily.com/clubhouse/pdf/MyNativity.pdf

Need a tiny gift idea? Print and cut apart this tiny Nativity set, tuck it into an empty mints tin, then wrap the tin with some narrow markers or colored pencils, and give it to your Sunday Church School students: http://madebyjoel.com/2013/12/travel-size-paper-city-nativity-scene.html

Challenge any lego builders in your class to try their hand at this basic Nativity set: a stable with star, Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, manger, shepherd, and sheep: http://frugalfun4boys.com/2015/11/16/lego-nativity-set-instructions/ 

They could also make this tiny Nativity (“Project #4”) found here: http://frugalfun4boys.com/2014/12/05/lego-christmas-projects-instructions/

Create a basic wooden Nativity for your classroom that will be played with and last for years to come: http://little-inspirations.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/wooden-doll-nativity.html

12 Days of Christmas Celebration Ideas:

Read from the devotional book “Celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas: a Family Devotional in the Eastern Orthodox Tradition”  by Wigglesworth, and gather ideas of things that can be done in your Sunday School class when it meets during the 12 days of Christmas. Read more about the book here: ”https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2014/12/24/gleanings-from-a-book-celebrating-the-twelve-days-of-christmas-a-family-devotional-in-the-eastern-orthodox-tradition-by-amandaeve-wigglesworth/

Older children will benefit from studying and discussing the sermons/quotes/writings that can be found here: http://www.antiochian.org/nativity/great-feast

To prepare your own heart and gain further ideas of how to help your students, listen to Fr. Andrew George (Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Cranston, RI) as he talks about how Orthodox Christians should be preparing for Christmas and then celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas: http://myocn.net/12-days-christmas/ (about 25 minutes)

Find several brief articles offering great ideas and encouragement for Orthodox families and teachers on ways to prepare for the Nativity with children: http://www.goarch.org/special/advent/pfn_nativity_articles.pdf

Gather more ideas from this blog post: http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/family/articles/offering

 

On Preparing Our Hearts, Anticipating the Birth of Christ Each Day of the Nativity Fast

Despite the fact that it is early November, some stores and public places have already begun decorating for Christmas and are playing Christmas music. To some, it may seem too early for that to be happening. But think about it: as Orthodox Christians, we will soon begin our own preparations for the birth of Christ. It is nearly time for the Nativity Fast. Like our secular world, we are anticipating the birth of Christ, although in a different way.

Every day of the Nativity Fast offers us the opportunity to be still and prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ into our midst. One way that we can do so is by feasting our minds on the scriptures. This is an especially good time for us to study the scriptures that foretell Christ’s coming and/or describe the events and people surrounding His birth. This studying can easily be done together as a family, throughout the Nativity Fast, and all the way to Christ’s birth!

There are several ways to submerge ourselves in the scriptures during the Nativity Fast. Two of these include the use of a “Jesse Tree” and an (Orthodox) Advent calendar. Of course, there are many other ways to do so as well, but we will look at these two because they are great to do with children.

1. The Jesse Tree: Encourage students and their families to set up a tree (or a large wreath, or a swag down the bannister, or a ribbon strung across a wall) just before the fast begins, and then hang one ornament on it each day throughout the season. Each ornament will depict a person or an event that is the focus for that day’s meditation. While creating and/or hanging the ornament, read and discuss the scripture associated with it.

2. The Advent Calendar: Before the Nativity Fast begins, set up a collection of numbered containers (envelopes, painted jars. lidded boxes, etc.), one for each day. Inside each container, place an item (or a picture, or even just a reading for the day) that will guide a brief discussion on a topic related to the Nativity. During the Fast, together open the container of the day, read about its contents, and talk about how it relates to the coming of Christ.

*Note: these ideas would make great projects for you to work on together as a Sunday Church School class! The children could create sets of ornaments and exchange them with each other, or you could make them a week’s worth at a time during class the week before. If you create them together a week at a time, you could talk about the scripture that goes with each ornament as you make it. Although it may be too late for you to accomplish a project of this magnitude with this year’s class, save the idea for a future year! Or make your own Jesse Tree or Advent Calendar set and use it, a week’s worth at a time, with your students in your classroom in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

For future years, consider gathering together as a whole Church School to do an exchange! During the summer or early in the fall, divide up the 40 days’ (52, if you include the 12 days of Christmas) worth of ornaments or items evenly between each family who wishes to participate. Before the exchange, each participating family will make an ornament for each of their allotted days for each member of the group (so, if you have 8 families in a Jesse Tree exchange group, each family would make 8 copies of an ornament for each of the 5 days’ ornaments they’ve been assigned). At some point before the Nativity Fast begins, get together and have a festive exchange. If a few families want to participate but cannot find enough others who are interested in an exchange like this, keep your eye out online for groups that they could join. (For example, in the summer/fall of 2015, there was a Facebook group called “Festal Celebrations” which collaborated on a Jesse Tree ornament exchange.)

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Need a place to start? Here are several options to help you get going:

Find a set of reproducible pictures for your Jesse Tree here. These can be copied, and then children can color them and paste them onto a cardstock ornament shape while someone reads the related text (if you don’t have time to make the ornaments in advance). They could also be reproduced onto shrinking plastic to make longer-lasting ornaments. Download the pictures here: https://festalcelebrations.wordpress.com/2008/11/20/another-twist-to-our-jesse-tree-project/. The extensive readings to go with these ornaments can be found here: https://festalcelebrations.files.wordpress.com/2008/11/festaljessetreeadditonaldays1-52pdf.pdf.

This version of the Jesse Tree text/ornament ideas extends the celebration to include the 12 days of Christmas! http://www.antiochian.org/content/advent-reading-jesse-tree

This Jesse Tree version (from http://www.charmingthebirdsfromthetrees.com/2010/11/tree-of-jesse-for-little-ones.html) offers the scripture passages, reproducible pictures, and the “Children’s Bible Reader” pages related to each day’s theme. http://www.scribd.com/doc/42707446/The-Tree-of-Jesse

Want to make an Orthodox Advent Calendar? Find a daily theme for each of the 40 days of the Nativity Fast, complete with a simple text, here: http://www.theologic.com/oflweb/xmas/advcal.htm.

Here is another Orthodox “Advent calendar” link: “The idea behind this calendar is to give us a different topic each day to discuss to keep us focused on Christ throughout the craze of the holiday season.” Besides a description of how to make the calendar, there is also a printable coloring book to go with each day’s discussion!
http://pdxorthodoxmom.blogspot.com/2014/11/orthodox-40-day-advent-calendar.html?m=1

Should you wish to have the children “open” each Jesse Tree ornament before hanging it, or if you are making an Advent calendar, find inspiration from these ideas. They are not Orthodox, but can easily be adapted for an Orthodox Jesse Tree or Advent Calendar. http://www.doublethebatch.com/diy-christmas-advent-calendar-ideas/

Ideas for Honoring Fathers on Father’s Day

Since Father’s Day is just around the bend, this week’s blog will focus on ideas for ways to celebrate dads. Suggestions include activities, foods, and gifts. A little planning ahead can help to make Father’s Day a great celebration of the fathers in our midst. Enjoy planning and celebrating!

Celebrating Father’s Day

As a family, remember Dad with these ideas:

Write a thank you note to God for all of Dad’s attributes. Then give him the note.
Make a large Father’s Day card by clipping articles and photos, then make a pictorial collage.
Prepare dinner with Dad’s favorite food. Decorate his chair like a throne. Have children make menus and “play restaurant” by serving the meal at a candlelit table.
Draw a comic strip featuring what you love about Dad. Post it where he can see it.
Wash, wax, and clean the interior of the car.
Bake a batch of Dad’s favorite cookies.
Rent a favorite video, pop a batch of popcorn, and watch the video together.
Have an art show of drawings or paintings of Dad.

Adapted from For Parents Only, May/June 1995 (Children’s Ministry).

© 1996 by Orthodox Family Life and the original author(s).

From http://www.theologic.com/oflweb/secular/fordad.htm, used by permission.
Here are more ideas of ways to bless a father on Father’s Day:

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Find one Orthodox Christian mom’s gathering of ideas for Father’s Day gifts here: http://www.orthodoxmom.com/2013/06/12/diy-fathers-day-gift-ideas/

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At http://eighteen25.com/2012/05/free-download-book-for-dad/ and at  http://www.hellowonderful.co/post/KID-MADE-FREE-PRINTABLE-FATHER—-S-DAY-BOOK#_a5y_p=3862808 find printable books that kids can draw on and write to finish for Dad, for Father’s Day.

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Instead of a card, invite children to decorate this fun poster for dad: http://www.confettisunshine.com/2014/05/free-printable-fathers-day-poster.html

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Children can draw a (reversible) picture with fabric crayons. Have an adult use an iron to transfer the crayon drawings onto a tie for dad. http://kidsactivitiesblog.com/13123/fathers-day-ties#

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Fill a “six pack” (of treats) for dad, and a bunch of other ideas here: http://99crafting.co/fathers-day-crafts/

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Find clever, cute, and free printables for dads at http://www.the36thavenue.com/fathers-day-gifts-ideas/

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Make dad “dessert in a jar” http://www.livinglocurto.com/2013/06/fathers-day-gift-dessert-printables/. (The materials for this project can easily make more than one gift. It would work well if you have several men you wish to honor, or if you are working with a group of children.)

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Give dad a gift that offers hours of ideas for fun interaction with his kids. Purchase a book with science project directions, the ingredients for a few of the projects, and a box to store everything. This gift will be used over and over, and offer opportunities for dad/kid fun! (If dad isn’t a science fan, consider basing the project on an art book, a craft book, a game ideas book, etc.) http://curlybirds.typepad.com/curly-birds/2011/06/fathers-day-gift-activity-tub.html

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Find a variety of sweet homemade Father’s Day gift ideas here: http://www.powerfulmothering.com/20-fathers-day-gift-ideas-with-kids/

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Even a small child can help to make this yummy dessert for dad on Father’s Day: http://www.thediaryofdaveswife.com/2012/06/13/fathers-day-fruit-pizza/

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Here’s a simple but beautiful Father’s Day project that can be made by a child who likes to sew: http://teachbesideme.com/dad-string-art/?utm_content=buffer0e116&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

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Instead of giving dad a “thing” for Father’s Day this year, consider making a contribution in his honor to the IOCC (https://www.iocc.org/giving/giving_honorgifts1.aspx) or the OCMC (http://www.ocmc.org/donate/index.aspx)!

Gleanings From a Book: “Celebrating The Twelve Days of Christmas: A Family Devotional in the Eastern Orthodox Tradition” by AmandaEve Wigglesworth

For those of us Orthodox Christians who follow the new calendar, the feast of the Nativity is upon us! For those of us following the old calendar, it is rapidly approaching. For all of us, this is a season of celebrating Christ’s humble condescension to earth for us and for our salvation. It is truly a time for celebration! And what a joy to be able to celebrate Christmas not just for one day, but for all of the twelve days of Christmas! Are you looking for ideas for your family’s celebration? Celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas: A Family Devotional in the Eastern Orthodox Tradition, by AmandaEve Wigglesworth, offers a variety of ideas for families to do together in the context of a family devotional time.

“After forty days of fasting and preparing for Christmas, we now begin the season of feasting! …There is a popular Christmas song called ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ in which a suitor gives presents each day to his true love. This song was written during a time when people would exchange one small gift a day throughout all twelve days… While the song is usually seen as a nonsense song, we can also use it to remind ourselves of the gifts God gives us… It is always good to be reminded of God in everything around us, so in each devotional, we will look at the Christian meanings given to the gifts in this popular song.” (p.9) The next few pages of the book go on to offer ideas of activities to do together throughout the season.

The bulk of the rest of the book walks the reader through each of the twelve days of Christmas, offering a short meditation on what is happening in our Orthodox Christian Faith on that particular day. Each meditation contains information about the feast or saint being commemorated that day; a related kontakion or troparion; and a short explanation of the Christian meanings behind both the number of the day as well as the gift offered in the song on that day of Christmas. Each day there is also a suggested related activity to do together as a family. Activities vary from Christmas caroling to making thank-you cards to crafts (ie: making a St. Genevieve’s luminaria and coloring a “stained glass” icon) to baking vasilopita (recipe included) to cleaning your house to prepare for your house blessing. The book concludes with appendices such as recipes, craft directions, and a craft pattern.

Families who are interested in learning more about their faith will do well to consider adding this book to their family library. The ideas and meditations in the book are a wonderful resource. Readers may only want to read through the book together as a family one time. Or, it could happen that the ideas in this book become the basis on which to begin a variety of family traditions related to the twelve days of Christmas.

Regardless, the reader is sure to agree with the back cover of the book: “With hymns, stories, meditations, and activities for each day as well as suggestions for the whole season, Celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas provides an invaluable resource for families looking to restore this season to its rightful place in their lives.”

Christ is born! Glorify Him! May we indeed celebrate the twelve days of Christmas in reverence and joy!

Find more information about the book, including sample pages, here: http://store.ancientfaith.com/celebrating-the-twelve-days-of-christmas/

 

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Following are blogs and articles related to the Orthodox Christian celebration of the twelve days of Christmas.

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“The 12 Days of Christmas begins on December 25 as day 1, then extends for 11 more days to end on January 5. Some traditions begin counting day 1 of the 12 days on December 26 which would end the period on January 6.  Recently, we find some civil traditions celebrating the 12 days of Christmas 12 days BEFORE Christmas, but that is a new invention which some attribute to the merchants who want to increase sales for the season.” ~ from http://orthodoxtoday.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/the-date-of-christmas-the-12-days-of-christmas-and-the-orthodox-christian-traditions/

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“At Pascha, we all know that we greet one another by saying ‘Christ is risen!’ and responding ‘Truly He is risen!’ for 40 days. Did you know that there is a similar greeting for Christmas? We should greet everyone after the Divine Liturgy on the Nativity by proclaiming ‘Christ is born!’ The response is ‘Glorify Him!’ Continue using this greeting the entire 12 days of Christmas. Add the beautiful Katavasia of the Nativity, which this greeting comes from, to your family prayer during this period:

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

Christ comes from heaven; meet Him.

Christ is on earth exalt Him.

O you earth, sing to the Lord.

O your nations, praise Him in joy for He has been glorified.” ~ from http://www.antiochian.org/content/let%E2%80%99s-celebrate-12-days-christmas

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“I like the idea of Christmas starting instead of ending on December 25th. We usually don’t celebrate our own birthdays until the day they occur or later. So why do we, in effect, celebrate Jesus Christ’s birthday (Nativity) so long in advance?” ~ from http://www.stlukeorthodox.com/html/evangelist/2001/twelvedays.cfm

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“The birth of Christ and His baptism ought never to be divorced. Both events define the Christmas season. It imparts to the Christian the knowledge that Christ’s coming into the world and Christ’s sanctification of the waters makes our new life possible — a sonship by adoption accomplished through baptism.” ~ from http://www.antiochian.org/node/18656

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“We must share this light with the darkness of the world, working together with the Spirit of God in the redemption of creation through Christ our Lord. This Lord entered our world in the humility of a child born to die—being wrapped as an infant in burial cloths, as depicted in the Nativity icon—by his own death triumphed over death itself.

Ultimately, then, the meaning of both the Nativity of Christ and the entirety of the 12 Days of Christmas is the receiving and giving of Christ, who is truly the gift and the giver, the one who is received and distributed.” ~ from http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/67338.htm