Blessed Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos in the Temple! (That's a mouthful!)
I have a friend who lives in a very small Orthodox community in a small town. If memory serves, they can only afford to have a priest out for Liturgy once a month. The other Sundays, she takes her children to Sunday School at a nearby protestant church. We were catching up over Facebook and through the course of our emails, she asked if I have any particularly spectacular resources for creating an Orthodox home with small children in mind. I've been wanting to do a post on that, but I think instead it will turn it into a series. This won't quite be the first post because I'd like to organize it a bit better and suggest several resources for similar aspects of an Orthodox home. This is mainly me gushing about a new favorite resource.
We learned about Sunday's feast last week with the help of Orthodox Christian Craft Supply. I knew it would be a hit in our household because for any story my children hear, they instantly want to have dolls to act it out. And they really do get excited about and love Mary. Veneration for the Mother of God is hardly something I have to teach: it comes naturally to my children.
It's interesting for me to discover their love for the Theotokos and how they identify with her. I was raised in churches that gave me the idea that devotion to Mary was "a Catholic thing" and probably wrong. It could be because they are girls that they identify with the Theotokos—that is certainly the case with a feast like the Entrance. Or possibly, they identify with the child Christ in Mary's arms, and their love of Mary comes from their love for me. They are very connected to their own mother, and the Mother of Christ naturally attracts their devotion. (If that doesn't instill the fear of God into a mother, I don't know what will!)
Incidentally, one of the first icons my children have really identified with is the icon I've had as my blog title banner for a long while. Have you noticed that it's an icon of Mary nursing Christ? When my kids (who have all been extended nursers) see that Jesus is having milk(!), their faces just light up. Jesus has milk just like me! I can't think of a more intimate and meaningful way to begin to communicate the mystery of the incarnation to a small child.
Back to dolls. Let me heartily recommend the Feast Day Boxes at Orthodox Christian Craft Supply. The only thing I had to supply for the project was a couple of kinds of glue. I did most of the "crafting" because I wanted them to make something lovely and their little hands weren't ready for some of the detail work. However, they helped paint pieces and assisted in gluing on jewels and ribbon. Older children could probably handle most parts of the crafts themselves.
I'm adding a button on the side of my blog for this wonderful resource. The boxes are inexpensive and nicely organized. When completed, children have a box that teaches many lessons of the particular feast but that is also, essentially, a box of toys! My kids love to take out the box, put Mary in a princess castle, pull her around in their princess carriages, and generally make her an intimate part of their imaginative worlds. With all the secular toys, secular images, and secular music that my children encounter, any way to insert Christ and the Church into their world on a more regular basis gets my approval!
***Addendum to the post: the Feast Day boxes also come with a teaching guide. Before doing each little craft, I read the accompanying short story from the simply worded guide to give the kids an idea of why each item was in the box.***