Lenten Ideas

Let’s back up a moment and start with what I wrote last year.  Here is part of last year’s “Lent in the Waldorf Home” post in case you have not seen it before.  I think the words and spirit of it still ring true: 

“I love this quote from “Waldorf Education:  A Family Guide” as edited by Pamela Johnson Fenner and Karen L. Rivers:

“As Steiner writes in “Spiritual Bells of Easter, I”:

Festivals are meant to link the human soul with all that lives and weaves in the great universe.  We feel our souls expanding in a new way during these days at the beginning of spring…It is at this time of year, the time of Passover and Easter, that human souls can find that there lives…in the innermost core of their being, a fount of eternal, divine existence.

If we can begin to penetrate the cosmic significance of the mystery of this season, the rebirth of nature, the freeing of the Israelites, and the death and resurrection of Christ, we begin to understand that Easter is as A.P. Shepherd writes.”…the Festival of the spiritual future of humanity, the Festival of Hope and the Festival of Warning.”

Shrove Tuesday was this week.  This day grew from the practice of obtaining absolution –to be “shriven” or “shrove” before the forty-day fasting of Lent.  Years ago, this was a very strict dietary fast and meat and eggs and milk were used up before Lent started.  Pancake-making and tossing was often tradition on this special day, and I am sure many of you are familiar with the custom of Carnival (Karneval in Germany) leading up to Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. 

Ash Wednesday began with the practice of wearing a sackcloth for Lent and covering one’s head with ashes. 

“All Year Round” has this to say:”Lent has been kept as a time of penance, of strict self-denial, and for contemplating the sufferings and temptations of Jesus Christ as he fasted forty days in the wilderness.  Nowadays, the imposed strictness of Lent has been largely relaxed, and more emphasis placed on using the time to strengthen the inner life through spiritual education or appropriate self-discipline.  The long fasts of Lent and Advent were once used to make pilgrimages or “progresses” to holy places.  The word “progress implies not only the outer journey, but also the inner journey of the pilgrim – his progress in self-development.”

So, without further ado, here are some traditional ways to celebrate Lent:

  • Fasting and eating cleansing foods such as dandelion, nettles, leeks, chevril.  In anthroposophic terms, we talk about doing this as an example for children for this season.
  • Spring Cleaning!
  • Spending time away from outer stimulation and more time with an inward focus.
  • For a young child, “All Year Round” recommends spending time with your child each day doing one small thing to develop a Lenten mood.  This could include sitting together and listening to the birds sing in the morning in silence, taking time to look for the moon each night.
  • Decor:   a small unlit candle, bare twigs on the Nature Table, a bowl of dry earth or ashes on the Nature Table (you could plant seeds there on Palm Sunday so something grows during Holy Week).
  • Celebrate “Mothering Sunday” –the fourth Sunday in Lent was traditionally  when young people working away from home were given the day off to visit their mothers.  Traditional gifts include Sinnel Cake (like a fruit cake) and violets.

Some of the traditions we have include eating pancakes on Fat Tuesday (Shrove Tuesday), setting up our Nature Table as above, eating cleansing food and reducing certain components of our diet, participating in a Bible study for Lent (this year I am studying a part of the book of Psalms), reducing computer time and spending more time together as a family.

One craft to consider for yourself this time of year is wet- on- wet watercolor painting.  I painted the other night for an hour or so, making purple from red and blue.  It is very meditative and calming to do this, and the pictures you paint can then be cut into crosses for your Nature Table, or you can make a transparent part in your paintings with tissue paper of different colors.”

Here are some resources I am using this year:

The Anglican response for a carbon fast during Lent:  http://www.tearfund.org/Campaigning/Carbon+Fast.htm  and the day-by-day carbon fast calendar here:  http://www.tearfund.org/webdocs/website/Campaigning/CarbonFast09/Carbon%20Fast%20Flyer%202011.pdf

Collecting alms for the Episcopal Relief and Development “Basics For Life”:  http://www.er-d.org/GiftsForLife/4/65/

Readings from the Church Fathers:  http://www.monachos.net/content/lent

I am going to make this calendar with the children today:  http://thesefortydays.blogspot.com/2008/02/project-lenten-calendar.html

We will also bury the alleluia:  http://fullhomelydivinity.org/Lenten%20customs.htm

A Round-Up of Lenten Resources:  http://www.worship.ca/easter.html  and here:  http://anglicansonline.org/special/lent.html

We will make an Easter Garden as well.

One of the main things I have done this year is to make my calendar as empty as I can so I have time to pray, time to study the Bible, time to do my readings of the Church Fathers, time to be present in the small things, time to thank God for his blessings.  This has been my main resource this year: creating that time to be present in Lent.

Many blessings,


11 thoughts on “Lenten Ideas

  1. Thank you!

    could you please talk about some things to do for St. Patricks day as well or special stories for St. Patricks!

  2. i was wondering how old (young?) kids should be before trying to explain tradtions/festivals like lent. my oldest is only three and i don’t think he’ll have the ability to understand or the patience for it. but it’s an important time for me, so i do want to start teaching/modeling it. just not sure about the timing.
    thanks! =)

    • Hi Patty-leigh,
      Doing, doing, doing. If “why” comes up: “This is what we do (during Lent) (on Ash Wednesday) etc.”
      The small child is about doing, you have the plan, you do the doing and they see it.
      Many blessings,

  3. Hi Carrie. Super post!
    I am having trouble feeling Lent like I did before I had children. In the whirl of babies, that seemed alright, but now my oldest is 6, then a 5 and a baby who is 1. I want to bring a solemnity back into the house. Can that work with the daily bustle and songs and verses that seem to be eagerly pulling us towards Spring?

    I guess that Waldorf seems to work so beautifully the rest of the year to marry seasonal and religious rhythms. But I sense discord around Lent. (I posted over at Mothering, too, no response….maybe I am too wordy?!)

    I am working with many of the resources you list above….particularly love FullHomelyDivinity. I have a whole list of activities, but even the ones like making a Lent calendar seem too wordy. Lent is so internal that I find ‘doing’ things either hard to find or too solemn and focused for my little ones.

    Maybe it’s supposed to feel uncomfortable? Maybe just sitting in the tension between the waxing Spring and the waning Winter all overshadowed by Lenten penitence and reflection is enough?

    I don’t know, really! I’m just not feeling it, and I feel a need for it in our family this year. Any thoughts? Many thanks for all you do.

    • GwenM — YES! Lent is internal, it is a mood we carry as an adult and bring that gesture to our small children. The children notice the small things of everyday – the candles at dinner are no longer lit during Lent, we go outside every morning for a few minutes and notice the sun rising, we no longer say “allelulia” at church or at home, Mommy is praying more, there is a bowl of sand on the Nature Table. I have several back posts on Lent and Easter with the small child, try putting Lent or Easter into the search engine on this blog and see what comes up.
      I hope that at least confirms where you are. 🙂
      Many blessings,

  4. Great post. Glad you put it up. In my limited knowledge of all things Waldorf, I have noticed an emphasis on feasts, but not on fasts so this is a great one. The Orthodox Church has a few different things to say which may be worth your time to look into. One very vital thing in Orthodoxy is that it is best to be in a relationship with a ‘spiritual father’ to guide you along your journey. This is especially true when discussing things like fasts. Every family is different and has different needs. Finding a spiritual mentor to help you along the way is a huge help, especially when dealing with a family. I totally identify with GwenM’s dilemna- having 6 kids of our own. But you’re right. Children notice the little things. I always think that if you just make one small change during Lent, the kiddos notice it. Just take baby steps and remember that your spiritual life is a journey. If you take one baby step each year along the way, you’ll come out with a whole lot on the other side. And you might not always ‘feel’ like you’re doing it right or whatever. That’s where fasting is also a discipline that is designed to bring us closer to God no matter what we ‘feel’ like in the moment.

    And, as for St. Patrick- there are some great kids’ books out there including one by Tomie dePaola.

    Thanks again for putting up this post.

    Here are a few links:

    This one has some activities to do with kids:

    And there is a great website that has lots of informative podcasts if you have the time to sit and listen:

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