This week is Holy Week. Once again, we find ourselves spending this special time at home, unable to carry out treasured Filipino traditions.
For many, what matters most is being able to spend time reflecting on and uniting oneself with the passion of Jesus Christ. With younger children, a bit of creativity can be very helpful in painting a clearer picture of what this season means and how it affects them.
This time can serve as an opportunity to deepen our children’s understanding of the foundation of the Christian faith. We can also use it to let them see why we live out the rest of the year faithful to the teachings of Jesus on humility, service and love and why we always look toward the joys and promises of hope.
I recently saw the cutest photo of the Last Supper on thepurposefulmom.com. It consisted of two egg cartons put together so that there are enough “seats” side by side. On each “seat” was a cutout photo of the 12 disciples with Jesus in the middle.
This would serve as a fun kickoff activity to the next four days. There are so many stories to tell, such as the betrayal of Judas, Peter’s promise to never deny Jesus and his eventual denial, and Jesus’ agony in the garden of Gethsemane. This will also set the stage for the events of that evening.
In previous years, many of us would have spent Thursday night at Mass, watching the priest wash the feet of the Eucharistic ministers. This year, you can attend Mass online, with almost each parish and local Catholic school now celebrating Masses on their Facebook or YouTube page.
You can recreate this special tradition at home with the parent washing the feet of the children and live-in household staff. By explaining the meaning behind the action, our children can have a deeper appreciation of both the traditional act and the meaning behind it.
After Mass, a Visita Iglesia would have been the next step. Visita Iglesia is a visit to seven churches. A quick Google search for online Visita Iglesia will result in several virtual tours of our beloved local churches. You can also go to the Everest Academy Manila official YouTube channel.
Or, you can get creative and make your own stations at home.
Making your own Stations of the Cross is a lot easier and simpler now with numerous free printable sheets online. There are also websites such as reallifeathome.com where you can download the template and have your children color each page.As you color, you can discuss the meaning of each station with your children. You can then explain what happened in an age-appropriate manner. Refrain from sugarcoating so as not to take away from the gravity of the truth.
Later, as you do the Stations of the Cross in your “churches” at home, you can try to relate each station to your children’s daily lives. You can also ask them to share their own personal reflections, on how they can relate or prayer intentions, if they would like to do so.
Good Friday is a traditionally somber day. During my childhood, we were even prohibited from laughing. There were many superstitions mixed with the day, and we were even told not to play rough as accidents were known to happen at 3 p.m. onward.
I look back and wonder if those were just a way to keep us noisy kids quiet and behaved during a sacred day of prayer.
I think the children of today are not as gullible and we are better off sticking to the facts of the day.
Good Friday can start with either an online broadcast of the Seven Last Words, or once again, your own personal version with your children. Try to keep things simple by focusing on the key ideas behind each line and seeing how you can best explain it to your child.
Traditionally, after the Seven Last Words, we have the 3 p.m. Mass and the Veneration of the Cross. As most households have their own crosses, you can still continue this practice. It is worth reminding our children that venerating the cross is not the same as worshipping a material piece of wood. Rather, venerating consists of paying homage to the instrument of salvation and commemorating the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
I see Holy Saturday as the day of rest in preparation for the big event of Sunday. You can try watching a film about Jesus and the church such as “Mary’s Land,” “Risen” or whatever Holy Week film you prefer and can find online. There is a lot of time before the the Easter Vigil Mass.
As long as you have a dark room and some candles, you can recreate the atmosphere of the Masses online in your own living room. This is a particularly long Mass and more challenging for young children.
The “drama” of the lights going on might help in making them understand the transition from mourning the death of Jesus to celebrating His resurrection. Just start by keeping the lights very low and dim, and follow the flow of the Mass when you can turn on the lights, light your candles and share the flame. Of course, this is being mindful of whether the child is old enough to handle a candle.
You can also make your own early Salubong and put a veil on a woman in the house. Appoint the young children as the angels and someone as Jesus and have your own live Salubong at home!
The highlight of the week is Easter Sunday! This is a great day to wake up early, put on something nice and special and enjoy your Easter Sunday Mass and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Considering the joy of the day, it would be a great idea to prepare your family’s favorite meals since it is a day of celebration.
Last year, in lieu of a regular Easter Egg Hunt, my friend Michelle taught me how to make an Amazing Easter Trivia Challenge Hunt instead. Everyone at home joined and we all had a great time.
Moms will have to get creative and stay up on Saturday night after the children have fallen asleep to prepare and hide the answers in different parts of the house.
1. Start by coming up with trivia questions related to Lent and Holy Week. You can make anywhere between 10 to 20. For example, “What do you call the last meal that Jesus had with His disciples?”
2. After the players answer (“The Last Supper”), whether as a team or individually, they must then find the Easter egg in an area/photo that is relevant to the answer. For example, you can hide this Easter Egg under the dining table. Inside each Easter egg is a challenge that they must do (jump over your sibling, spin around in a circle for 30 seconds, etc . . .) in order to earn a point.
3. Give the next clue and repeat until the children find the last Easter egg. The team with the most number of points wins and gets their pick of the chocolates.
Whether you are able to carry out all the different traditions and these ideas for Holy Week or not, what matters is that we are able to somehow find a way to make our faith come alive for our children and help them understand who Jesus is, His great sacrifice for us and the hope that He brings for all. INQ