Festal “Life Cycle” Chart for Children
As the mother of two young daughters who love to do craft projects and art, I’m always looking for new project ideas, especially those that allow me to teach them a little more about our faith while they’re having fun. Over the years, I’ve found many small projects to help celebrate and teach about individual feast days. Such projects have been great for telling the story of each feast, but they lack the ability to present the larger context of Orthodoxy. They don’t tell the whole story. That is why a few years ago, my older daughter Hummingbird and I made a “life cycle” chart of the 12 major feasts of the Orthodox Church and Pascha.
This is a great project that offers some flexibility for accomplishing it. It can be done all at once or throughout the year as each feast day approaches. And while it would be the perfect start to a new church year (or school year if you do home school), it can be started at any time of the year. That’s the great thing about the perpetuity of the Orthodox story, and that’s exactly what this project is designed to teach. Once the chart is complete, you can return to it at each feast day and illustrate the lasting nature of the Church and what she teaches us about the life of Christ. It is important to show children that although the events happened only once in an earthly sense, they are forever happening now in a timeless way. This is why many festal troparia are in the present tense, as is that of Pascha — Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.
To do this project you will need a poster board, construction paper, or other large paper. You will also need icons for each feast day; icon cards are great, but you can also print out thumbnail images in a pinch. And finally you’ll need a pencil, and markers or colored pencils, and optional stickers for embellishing. If you’re doing this with a young child, you’ll need to do most of the work, leaving the gluing and embellishing for little hands, but older children can take a more active role in the process.
Step 1: Draw a large circle on your paper. It need not be perfect, but there are plenty of great options for tracing — plates, bowls, round pans — if you’d like it to be.
Step 2: Glue on the icons. Pascha should be in the center of the circle. Place the Nativity of the Theotokos at the top and follow the circle around, adding each icon in calendar order.
Step 3: Label each icon. At the very least this should include the name and date of the feast, but it could also include the troparion or kontakion, or a list of important figures (ie. Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Father, and John the Baptist at Theophany). You could even start with just the name, and add more details to the label each year as your children grow. We wrote in our labels, but you could also print out labels to glue on, thereby giving the little ones more work.*
Step 4: Embellish. Let your children add their own personal touch by adding a title (The 12 Great Feasts or The Life of the Church in Feasts, perhaps) or border with markers or stickers.
*Steps 2 and 3 can, of course, be done together for one icon at a time if you’re doing this bit by bit throughout the year.
When you’re done, your project may look something like ours (pictured below). Whatever its final form, you will have a festal memento to which you can return feast after feast, year after year, as your children continue to grow in the faith.
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