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We’re so excited for Holy Week! Here are some family traditions that we do this week. I want to emphasize: if you’re beginning liturgical living in the Byzantine/Orthodox tradition, please DO NOT try to do everything. Choose one or two things that seem the simplest and most enjoyable for your family life this year. We have been doing some of these activities for eight years, other things we are just adding for the first time. Please feel free to disregard anything and everything if it just creates anxiety.
In the afternoon, we make Lazarakia. These are small, spiced, vegan bread rolls made to represent Lazarus raising from the dead. In the past, I have made these from scratch using this recipe.
This year, I discovered that Trader Joe’s Jumbo Cinnamon Rolls are vegan, so you bet that I’m just having the kids shape the cinnamon roll dough and put some cloves in for Lazarus’s eyes. When we are ready to bring them out of the oven, I have the kids “call out in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!'” (John 11:43). We also do this before placing them on the table to eat.
Pysanky Eggs: We make these later in the afternoon after Divine Liturgy. There are some cool official Ukrainian kits you can get online. I admit it’s probably late to order these on a budget. A simpler, easier way for small children is Crayon Pysanky eggs – click here for a guide. The Crayon method will probably be used by Walter and Charlie this year; beeswax crayons work best. Sometimes we try making Pysanky Eggs closer to Pascha, but in our family it ended up being a little too rushed to really enjoy. The amount of intricacy on our eggs varies from year to year depending on ages of kids, nap times, and level of focus. When the eggs are sitting in the dye, we assemble our Resurrection Garden.
This is a tradition Paul grew up with that I was eager to add to our family. There are multiple ways to do this. One version of this garden begins a week or so before and uses quick growing grass seed. In this weeklong version, you place little crosses and a stone in the garden on Great and Holy Friday, and roll the stone away and on the Morning of Pascha. In this quick version, you can make it this way the night before, and it looks pretty good instantly. Some things I add are a sticker “seal” on the tomb (rock) on Great and Holy Friday, and lots of flowers over the tomb on the Morning of the Resurrection with a piece of white cloth in the tomb.
Great and Holy Monday
In the readings today, Jesus is hungry, and sees a fig tree with leaves, and has no fruit and he curses the fig tree. (Mark 11: 12-14) The disciples see the next day that the tree was dry and dead. Jesus continues to say that with faith, the disciples can move mountains and shows the power of faith. (Mark 11:20-26)
Today the kids make a fig tree out of a brown paper bag, spend time pasting “leaves” on it. That evening, we burn the paper trees with fire. Yep, I have boys, and I’m going to work with there love of fire.
Another appropriate family idea for this day would be to watch the movie “Little Boy” (2015, PG-13), which emphasizes this scriptural idea. As with all movie recommendations, you know your kids, use your parental discretion to whether you think this is appropriate for your family.
Great and Holy Tuesday
Clay Oil Lamps: We make little clay oil lamps representing the ten virgins who went to meet the bridegroom. (Matthew 25:1-4) While sharing the story, I ask open ended questions “Hmmm…I wonder what Jesus means about this?” “I wonder what it means to be ready for the bridegroom…” Please, do not try to give the children answers. Giving them ideas to ponder grants the children the opportunity for the child’s own meditation. You can leave the lit oil lamps in your icon corner or prayer table at home this day.
Great and Holy Wednesday
Today, we read the gospel in which Jesus is Anointed by a Sinful Woman (Luke 7:36-50). We make some “anointing oil” which is really infused olive oil. We’re hoping to share this olive oil at dinner on Great and Holy Thursday.
Great and Holy Thursday
Today we make homemade bread to share with after Divine Liturgy. Paul also leads the family in washing each others feet. It’s a very small, intimate moment. The church encourages us to enjoy oil and wine on this day.
Great and Holy Friday
Crown of Thorns Pretzel Rolls: We make these together in the morning and then eat them at lunch. I did a trial run of these in the first week of the fast, and they were remarkably easier than I anticipated.
We place Crosses, Stone, and the Sticker Seal in our Resurrection Garden.
Great and Holy Saturday
We bake our Paska Bread and arrange our traditional Easter basket to be blessed. In addition to traditional foods, we include a lot of food that we’ve been fasting from in our basket.