Lent is not my favourite time of year. I'm not so good at self-imposed suffering and mortification. However, I know that it is good for me. Very good for me. I need Lent, at least once a year, to force me back on track and to get self-disciplined again.
That being said, journeying through Lent as a family takes on an entirely different dimension. Not only do I have to fast as an individual, now we have fasts and sacrifices that we do as a family. Together we hold each other accountable and together we journey through Lent. Lent becomes a tradition that we experience together and in which we grow together.
In this post I want to share what Lenten traditions we have as a family that make this season rich and which makes the celebration of Easter even richer. Perhaps it will spark an idea for your own family's Lent.
1. Shrove Tuesday: Lent traditionally always begins with one last feast before the fast. This is typically the day to eat up all the fats, butter, milk, chocolate, desserts and so forth in order to get ready for the 40 days of Lent. At our home, we make pancakes, eat up our desserts and get the house ready for Lent.
2. Sacrifice Jar: Each week the children are to sacrifice for the family (chores, kind deeds and words and so forth). For each deed done they place their name in the jar. Then on Sunday we count the total number of names. There is a goal for each week and it always is pushed higher. Usually we start at 10 deeds, then push it to 20, 30, 40. For Holy Week, the family has a goal of 50 good deeds. If they meet their goal, we all get dessert on Sunday (for we don't fast on Sundays).
3. Crown of Thorns: For Holy Week we make a crown of thorns out of flour and tooth picks. We place 50 toothpicks in and the children take out the thorns with each good deed or sacrifice that they do.
4. Crucifix and Icons: The Lenten tradition is to cover up the crucifix during Lent. We don't have the material to do so well, so we take down the crucifixes and the icons. This makes our house look somewhat bare or desert-like.
5. Stations of the Cross: We pray the Stations of the Cross every Friday. However, we do them in different ways. During Lenten Emberdays we will head out into the forest and look for moments in nature that could represent each station. Then we'll kneel and pray there. E.g.: once the children found a dense thicket of reeds. This, because it hid them so well, reminded them of a cave. So we prayed the station where Jesus was laid in the tomb. On another Friday, we'll gather sticks and rocks and such and make each station with them before we pray them.
6. Praying the Psalms: There are 7 penitential Psalms that we will pray. One before bed as a family. They are: Psalm 6, 32,38,51,102,130, and 143.
7. Pretzels: Pretzels are a traditional Lenten food. We purchase the rounded pretzels (that is formed from a posture of prayer - hands across your chest) and each evening we place a pretzel by their dinner plate. Then before we eat, we go around and say what we are thankful for and then eat the pretzel.
8. Lenten Hymns: There are some beautiful Lenten Hymns. We sing a Latin hymn before our evening meal. During Lent we sing Attende Domine, Parce Domine and others.
9. Handel's Messiah: Usually during Holy Week, we'll make an evening of sitting down, listening too and following the notes to the masterpiece of the Messiah.
10. Laetare Sunday: This is the 4th Sunday of Lent. It is the Catholic Mother's Day. On this day we honour Mom and go to our Mother Church - the local Basilica.
Once Holy Week arrives things pick up a bit.
Holy Thursday: We have a seder meal where we reenact the Last Supper where Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist. Then I will wash the feet of each family member. Then Holy Mass where the priest washes the feet of parishioners.
Good Friday: In the morning we make hot cross buns. Then after the Veneration of the Cross at the Church, we come home for tea and hot cross buns - our only food for the day.
Holy Saturday: In the morning we prepare our Easter baskets for blessings by the priest, and bake our Easter bread. This day is a day of mourning so we'll wear black all day and have an hour silence in our rooms. In the evening we bring our bell and head to the Easter Vigil.
This may seem like a lot of work. And it is. Building traditions takes work. Often we are exhausted and yet we still keep up the tradition. Why? Because it binds the family together.
I wish you all a blessed and holy Lent.