It’s hard to believe, but we are just a few short weeks away for the start of Lent. If you aren’t familiar with Lent, it is the liturgical season leading up to Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday and lasts for 40 days (not counting Sundays). It is a solemn season marked by fasting and abstaining, praying and alms giving. Just as Advent is a period of time to prepare for Christmas, Lent is a period of time to reflect and prepare our hearts for Easter. Lent doesn’t have the same joyful anticipation feel as Advent, and if I’m honest. I never used to get very excited about it. It certainly doesn’t feel like a celebration…at least not by my definition, but then I did some looking at what it really means to celebrate something and I was a little surprised.
Definition of celebrate
transitive verb1: to perform (a sacrament or solemn ceremony) publicly and with appropriate rites
2a: to honor (an occasion, such as a holiday) especially by solemn ceremonies or by refraining from ordinary buisness
b: to mark (something, such as an anniversary) by festivities or other deviation from routine
3: to hold up or play up for public notice
intransitive verb1: to observe a holiday, perform a religious ceremony, or take part in a festival
2: to observe a notable occasion with festivities
After reading the definition, it is obvious that we do CELEBRATE Lent. I wanted to share with you some ideas for celebrating Lent in your home, and with your kids. I think when we embrace Lent for all that it offers, it truly can be a beautiful season. A time of stripping away what keeps us from being our best self, and drawing in closer to Christ. For most of my life I dreaded Lent, I gave things up, because “I was supposed to” but didn’t really evaluate my life and look at areas that needed improvement. I didn’t ask myself what I could do more of or less of to grow closer to Christ. I think as I started to look for ways to introduce my children to Lent I started to open myself up to have a more meaningful Lenten season.
So here are some tips and ideas I’ve rounded up for a more fruitful Lent.
I started decorating for Lent just in the last year or two. Decorating for Lent has helped us to remain focused on the Lenten season through out the 40 days, and I love the how the contrast between the Lent decorations and Easter decorations really signify the change from a time of solemn repentance to joyful celebration. The nice thing about Lent decorations are that they are supposed to be simple and barren, so they can be very easy to pull together! Here’s what I am planning to do this year:
A Lent Banner– Just like my Advent banner I am making a Lent banner as a reminder of the season. I made mine with felt and heat transfer lettering, but if you don’t have a cutting machine, here is a printable version that you can print, cut and string using a hole punch and ribbon.
Here is the printable banner!
A Lent Candle– I have always loved the advent candle, and recently I have seen a couple different takes on a Lent candle. I decided to go with a simple purple candle (purple is the liturgical color of the season). I’m planning to surround it with rocks and a crown of thorns. Then for Easter I am planning to swap it for a DIY paschal candle surrounded by colorful eggs. You can learn more about making a Paschal candle for your home from THIS POST.
Our Jesus Tree– We will be using the Jesus Tree tradition as part of our PRAYER during lent. I just place branches from the yard in a vase and add a purple ribbon. I will also set out our lent themed children’s books and our sacrifice beans.
Lent is marked sacrifice and self-denial. It can be a hard concept for little kids, and to be honest many adults (myself included)! The three areas that we focus on during lent are PRAYER, FASTING and ALMS GIVING. I think the fasting is what most people think of when they think of lent—giving something up. Denying ourselves of something we enjoy, even things that aren’t necessarily bad for us, is a great Lenten practice, but I’ve found combining the giving up with the addition of PRAYER makes the season much more fruitful for me. For many years I chose something to give up and then spent much of lent focused on the one thing I couldn’t have! Lent became much more impactful when I focused less on the giving up and more on adding in prayer and service. We will be incorporating all three practices in our home in one way or another this year.
Here is a round-up of some ideas for each area of Lent. I know you know this, but I feel like I must say, please do not attempt all of these ideas, choose the ones that fit your family best. I have learned the hard way that less is more. Being consistent with one or two things is more impactful than trying to do too much and not being able to follow through! Start small. I recently read that liturgical living is like adding layers, little by little. This is hard for me…I usually want to do all the traditions, and try all the things, but this always leaves me feeling defeated when I can’t pull it off or my family isn’t into it. Be intentional about what you pick to both give up and add to your routine, and if possible make a few decisions as a family to increase buy-in. What will work best for your family? What is doable? What can you accomplish cheerfully? I do believe Lent should involve a little sacrifice and getting uncomfortable, but if you’re unbearable for 40 days, it probably won’t lead anyone closer to Christ! Download a free planning printable at the end of the post to help you prepare and plan your Lent.
- Pray the Stations of the Cross on Fridays. There are a lot of fun ways to make the stations of the cross more interactive at home. HERE is a printable we have used.
- Start praying a weekly family rosary
- Add in a Chaplet of Divine Mercy
- Do the Jesus Tree Devotion; Much like the Jesse Tree we do at Advent, you read a scripture and reflection each night. HERE is a printable Jesus Tree resource you can purchase and download.
- Add a daily Mass to your weekly routine
- Visit an adoration chapel, or add in a weekly time to go to adoration as a family.
- Create a paper chain with 40 prayer intentions, and pull one off to pray each day. (A great visual of how many days are left!)
Fast– My children are still pretty young, so we will pray, fast and give as a family. I don’t think they are quite ready to give something up for a full 40 days, but they can start practicing self-denial in small doses.
- Fast from electronics/screens for a day or a week.
- Fast from sweet treats for a day, on week days or for a week.
- Set out Sacrifice Beans- I use dried black beans. Whenever my children make a small sacrifice—do a chore without being asked or complaining, give up a toy they wanted, share nicely, etc. they move a bean from the jar to another jar or bowl. At Easter the black beans will turn into jelly beans. You can read more about it here.
- Fast from a favorite toy for a period of time.
- Fast from being negative or complaining.
- Purchase food to donate to a food pantry.
- Create blessing bags to give to the homeless.
- Donate toys/books to other’s in need.
- Make cards for family, friends or elderly in nursing homes.
- Choose a charity as a family and make a donation. You could tie it to a sacrifice by giving up a family outing (ice cream, pizza, etc. ) and using the money instead to bless someone else.
- Check out THIS GREAT resource on the spiritual/corporal works of mercy and incorporate them into your alms giving.
If you are looking for a really simple and easy way to incorporate all the disciplines, check out THIS post by Kathryn Whitaker. She includes printable cards for each area.
Other Lenten Traditions– There are lots of other fun ways to live out the Lenten season. Here are a few you might think about incorporating.
-Celebrate Mardi Gras (Not technically part of Lent)- Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. It is a last hurrah before we enter into Lent. Traditionally, Pancakes, and other sweet treats were often served on Fat Tuesday as a way to use up all the fat and sugar that were not allowed during Lent. I have another post about some fun ways to celebrate Mardi Gras. Check it out, Here.
-Ash Wednesday- Ash Wednesday is the kick off to Lent. It is a day of fasting and abstaining from meat. We usually go to Mass and receive ashes on our forehead, although it is not a Holy Day of Obligation.
-Make Homemade Pretzels- We did this for the first time last year, and it was a hit. Learn more about the tradition and meaning HERE.
-Don’t forget to abstain from meat on Fridays, HERE is a round up of meatless Lenten meals in case you find yourself in a little fish stick rut!
Download your Lent planning printable!
What are some of your favorite ways to observe Lent in your home? I always love to learn about other traditions and activities!
Praying you have a fruitful Lenten season,