Ash Wednesday falls the day after Shrove Tuesday and marks the beginning of Lent. Catholics traditionally attend mass on this day where ashes are placed on the forehead in the sign of a cross as a reminder of Christ's death. Ash Wednesday is 46 days before Easter and is observed by fasting, abstinence from meat and repentance. While children are not expected to fast as adults do during Lent, they can participate in Ash Wednesday activities to teach them the significance of this celebration.
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Lenten alms jar
During Lent, members of the family should collect money saved as result of self-denial and have an alms jar to collect it. For children the money could be from money saved by giving up candy. Ash Wednesday is the best time to get together with the children and decide where the money that gets collected in the alms jar should be donated. It could be a charitable organisation, buying something for the local children’s hospital ward or spent on something for a needy person you may know of.
Younger children can learn by using their imagination when using colouring pages. You can find online colouring pages about Ash Wednesday, Lent, Easter and stations of the Cross. Ash Wednesday colouring pages can show what happens at church on that day with ashes being marked on the forehead. This will help children understand what to do when you attend Ash Wednesday services together as a family. Evening masses are usually available to allow for busy families with working parents.
Create a cross for Lent as a craft project. You can use cardboard, wood or make a matchstick cross. Any material can be used for decoration including beads, glitter or leaves. Talk about the symbolism behind the cross as the children work on making their crosses. Once it is complete and the decorations have set or dried, then hang it in a prominent place to symbolise your devotion during Lent.
Make a calendar of paper or cardboard to symbolise the period of Lent. Ash Wednesday will be the first day. Write on it important dates like Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday Good Friday and Easter. Mark the calendar off each day and write down what luxuries were given up each day, so that it becomes linked to your alms jar. Discuss the significance of the different days as you are creating the calendar.
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