Approaching Lent

It’s hard to believe, but Lent begins on Wednesday. If you’re looking for some family Lenten ideas, I have a few suggestions.

Our Lenten traditions actually begin the day before Lent officially begins. On Shrove Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday), we say goodbye to the Alleluias. This may require some reverse engineering if you don’t already have an Alleluia Banner. It can be simple…an alleluia drawn on construction paper, and then put away until Easter. Or, it can be more complicated–a banner with the word alleluia, or, like ours, with the word alleluia in every liturgical color. How fancy your alleluias are isn’t the point…making a point to say goodbye, and put them away until Lent is over is what you’re trying to share with your children. When you make a big deal out of putting them away, bringing them back after the Great Vigil of Easter is an even bigger celebration!

For the last few years, we’ve put up a “Jesus Tree” throughout the season of Lent. Similar to the Jesse Tree, its Advent counterpart, the Jesus Tree focuses on stories from Jesus’ life, culminating with the events of Holy Week. We all really enjoy adding this to our morning routine…the Bible readings (many days, we’ll read the story from both the Bible and a children’s Bible storybook), are very helpful in refreshing our memories, and the visual component of the tree itself helps us to remember all we’ve learned.

Last year, I added a Lent calendar to our schoolroom. Because Lent is such a long season, to young children especially, it seems like it may never end. While the Jesus Tree is good because there is a reading for every day in Lent, when you’re counting up like that, you can’t see the end. A calendar helps children see what day it currently is, and where you are in the season of Lent. I also added markers for special commemoration days like St. Patrick’s Day and the Annunciation. This year, I’m considering putting a black cross on every square in Lent, except for the current day, which will remain purple. This way, the children can take down one cross at the end of the day, to emphasize how many days there are in the season.

Possibly my favorite Lenten tradition is the making and blessing of the yearly Paschal candle. This is something we do on Holy Saturday every year, so it’s ready when we get home from the Great Vigil of Easter. It doesn’t take much time, and the kit we use makes it a simple activity. I think it’s a special way to end Lent, and it’s a nice way to tie church and home together.

These are just a few ideas for how you can celebrate Lent in your home. What else does your family do to observe this penitential season?

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