Engaging Holy Week with All 5 Senses


If you do a Pinterest search for "Good Friday," “Easter,” or “Resurrection crafts,” you’ll see a slew of bunnies, recipes for resurrection rolls and Hot Cross Buns, and empty tombs made of paper plates. The ideas are few, but the variations endless. I am not in the least opposed to paper crafts or food that illustrates the miracle of the Resurrection, or even cute spring bunnies, for that matter. In fact I am a huge fan of all of these categories, particularly when done well. But I think we can all agree (even if you’re a rebel maximalist) that more is not always better. And when it comes to teaching the littlest Christians, I think we desire for these activities, crafts, foods, and experiences to be rich with meaning. My hope for our family as we follow the life of Christ throughout the year is that we’ll have traditions that engage all of our senses and speak boldly of the hope we have in Jesus.

I plan to develop this more in the coming year, but did not want to miss the opportunity to share the beginnings of this endeavor toward meaningfully sharing the light of Christ with our children as we create traditions together. Perhaps these thoughts will assist you in thinking about how you can share Holy Week and the Easter season with your children.

Sight / The aesthetic quality of most things is really important to me, and although this impulse, like any good thing, can become disordered, I think that channeling it toward the purpose of seeing the beauty of our Lord and Savior is the very best use of that desire. Last year we bought our first icon, an image of the resurrected Jesus Greeting the Myrrh-Bearers. This year we made buying new icons a tradition and splurged a little over at Skete. Two are Easter gifts for Sebastian and Bruno, and it is our desire that these good images representing aspects of the truth of the gospel will make an impression on their young souls. Just as I know that this one will inspire me to persevere with love and sacrifice each day with and for my children. Images are powerful, and we want to put forth ones in our home that speak of the God we love, and which will help turn our thoughts and attitudes towards a posture of self-less love and right placement of all our passions, desires, and attitudes.

Additionally, I tend to steer us away from cheap crafts, but look for ways to add to our normal house decorations in pleasing ways. This most often means tacking up garlands like this one for Ash Wednesday, and changing the colors on our table to correspond with the liturgical season. On Easter Sunday the boys will awake to find the Lenten decorations removed and replaced with a white table runner, the egg garland they made last year, the daffodil one that I made, and a feast of goodies and eggs hanging from branches, all declaring that death is swallowed up in victory.

Smell / Myrrh is a traditional burial oil, and so we’ll be smelling and touching some and making the sign of the cross on each others heads on Holy Saturday, remembering Jesus’ death.

Taste / My natural impulse is to spend as little time as possible in the kitchen, but food holds such clear memories for so many of us. This year I hope to start some new kitchen traditions through the practice of making Hot Cross Buns and Resurrection Rolls with the boys.

And of course during Easter, we feast.

The Lord's Pascha, Pascha, and again I will say Pascha, to the honor of the Trinity. It is to us the feast of feasts, and festival of festivals...

—St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Festal Orations

Hearing / I rely greatly on Cody to turn on music, but one of my desires is to help our children memorize various hymns and songs. They practice music on Sundays in Catechesis, but I hope to do more at home. This requires me to first memorize one. This is one of my future Holy Week goals, but I hope to work on one during Easter. Last year I memorized the Gloria and I now sing it daily with the boys. They hear it every Sunday as well, and now have it memorized. Even Cosmas starts to dance when I sing it. This is also a good time to mention that although Holy Week services may be challenging to fit into your week and might leave you with cranky children, these are opportunities for your children to hear the stories and grasp more fully what it is that we're so excited about on Easter morning.

Touch / This is the arts and crafts section of Holy Week observances. At home I most often turn to paper, and those paper things typically turn into garlands, as l've already mentioned. But one of the most wonderful things about the Anglican Liturgy is that it is in fact designed to engage all of our senses, our very bodies, in worship. During Holy Week, our children will taste the bread and wine, have their feet washed, watch the alter being stripped and the lights turned off, and finally shake the bells to announce that Christ is not dead, but is risen. Not to mention hearing the account of the Last Supper, Christ's passion and the resurrection.

An additional idea could be to have a Holy Week sensory basket filled with items for your child to explore, such as a large nail, or a small chalice. Perhaps a swatch of red fabric, or white linen with a drop of myrrh on it. The possibilities here are endless, and can even be customized for the littlest of children.

Have a blessed Holy Week(end), friends! I would love to hear how you share the love of Christ with your family and neighbors during this most wonderful season. XO