Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent in the Christian church, begins the sacred time leading up to Easter when many Christians celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus. The rituals and details of the day can be difficult for children to grasp, but if you want to teach them about the significance of Ash Wednesday, age-appropriate activities can help.
Most kids like arts and crafts, so getting out your art supplies to celebrate Ash Wednesday is an ideal way to teach your child more about the holiday in a way she'll like. Draw the outline of a cross on a piece of white paper and use small pieces of brightly colored tissue paper to fill it in with a stained glass pattern. Use crayons, markers or paints to color Ash Wednesday coloring pages. Make puppets from paper bags to act out the story of the holiday.
Having a simple, age-appropriate devotional time at home is a way to introduce Ash Wednesday to your child without the crowd and a less than kid-friendly atmosphere at a formal church service. Read to your child from the Bible and talk about why Ash Wednesday is important, how it relates to the church calendar and why you celebrate it. As you and your child are out and about for the rest of the day, watch for fellow Christians who have ash crosses marked on their foreheads and point them out. Throughout Lent, hold a short daily devotional to help your child understand that Ash Wednesday is the beginning of a season in the church, rather than a stand-alone holiday.
Many families choose to fast on Ash Wednesday, but small children probably make this difficult. If your family chooses to eat as normal on Ash Wednesday, having a meatless meal is another tradition for the Lenten season. Have your child help you plan a meal that revolves around vegetables, fruits and bread. For example, prepare a tossed vegetable salad with grilled cheese sandwiches and sliced fruit. Some Christians eat fish on Ash Wednesday, so if your child likes seafood, pair it with vegetables and potatoes for dinner. As you eat, talk about the fact that people avoid meat to honor the sacrifice that Jesus made for Christians by dying on the cross. Many Christians avoid meat on Fridays throughout Lent as well.
Give Something Up
Many Christians choose to give something up for the Lenten season, starting on Ash Wednesday. This signifies Jesus' sacrifice for them. Talk with your child about this practice and come up with something to give up as a family. For example, you might decide to skip your nightly bowl of ice cream after dinner, stop drinking soda or give up candy. The point is to give up something that will be difficult to do. Your child can help keep everyone accountable and you might have him be your family's spokesperson when people ask about why you're giving up a favorite treat.