This project is really a combination of two ideas. Over 10 years ago I purchased a set of "Resurrection eggs", a set of small plastic easter eggs, each one filled with an item pertaining to the story of the crucifixion and resurrection.
I loved the idea of those eggs, and I also loved the idea of Mary's Dormition boxes, a set of 14 boxes each containing a symbol of the Theotokos to be opened on each day of the Dormition Fast. Those two ideas percolated for a while, and I kept thinking, there has to be a way to make an Orthodox set of Resurrection eggs. Only after weeks of working on the idea did I discover Phyllis Onest has a lovely pamphlet on creating your own set :) Seems I like to reinvent things other people have already thought of! The problem with little plastic eggs though, is it is hard to find items small enough to fit inside, so I took Mary's idea of using the little paper mache boxes from the craft store - conveniently oval shaped, like an egg.
Last year we also purchased this wonderful book for the crocodile hunter, and I read it through. It has a beautiful explanation of each service of Holy Week. The overall themes for each day are laid out, as well as the many rich images we get from the readings during these services. So, using that book, my copy of the Services for Holy Week and Pascha, and a lot of red paint and m*d podge, here is what I came up with: Each box is about 6-7 inches by 4 inches, painted a deep red with an icon attached to the top. Most of the icons were old bulletins I had saved, I just cut and mod podged them on. The ones I did not have as bulletins I located through the OCA website. I painted the inside of each box in gold. Another way to do this on a smaller scale is to just make one box with an icon of the Resurrection on it, and rotate the items out each day. This would make for easier storage too! This project does not have to cost a lot, many of the items are things I found by scrounging through the kids stuff, or my fabric stash. The hardest part was getting enough of the boxes, as our local craft store will not special order these. I had to watch for a while to manage to gather enough (I made a set for a godchild, so I needed 14 :) but, they were very inexpensive, I think I paid $1.25 each because I got them each time they went half price.
Box 1: This box is for Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday. It contains a strip of linen fabric to represent the raising of Lazarus, a donkey (from the crocodile hunter's stash), palm branches (a piece of artificial greenery I found at H*bby L*bby, I just cut the individual fronds off) and icons of Mary and Martha, the Raising of Lazarus, and the Entrance into Jerusalem. I forgot to include them in the photo, but the other item I am putting in this box is the dried palm branches woven into crosses from past years.
Box 3: This box pertains to Bridegroom Matins on Monday evening and Tuesday mornings gospel readings. The theme of readiness for the final judgement runs through the readings and the parables of the 10 talents and the 10 virgins are told. The sheep and goats (from the crocodile hunter's stash) are a reference to the scripture in which the people will be divided at judgement. The coin recalls the story of the Pharisees' attempt to trick Christ - render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's. I still want to include a lamp, perhaps made from sculpy, to represent the parable of the 10 virgins, but that may have to wait until next year.
vial of oil remind us of the harlot washing Christ's feet, and also His rebuke to the disciples that He came to save those who are sinful. The bag contains 30 pieces of silver, as Wednesday is also the day Judas is paid for his betrayal of Christ. Finally, the oil also calls to mind the Service of Holy Unction which is commonly held on Wednesday of Holy Week.
Mystical Supper, and contains a chalice, bread, an icon of the last supper and figures of Christ and disciples.
rooster as a reminder of Peter's betrayal hours later, a crown of thorns (miniature wreath from H*bby L*bby), a vial of vinegar as offered to Christ on the cross, a strip of leather to remind of the beating he received, a die as they cast lots for his clothing, and a small wooden skewer to represent the spear that pierced His side.
Box 7: The final box is for Saturday, and contains a strip of linen to represent Christ's burial, vials of frankincense and myrrh which the women took to the tomb to prepare his body, a stone, icons of the resurrection and the risen Christ figure.
Some of the items in the boxes are not appropriate for younger children, and I am sure there are many other items that could be included, and ways to personalize this project. We plan to take each box to church during those services, and use the items as reminders for what the kids should be listening for during the readings. As I said, I did not have this ready last year, but I did collect a few items to use last year, and it was amazing how effective it was for my 4 year old to hold those grapes, and then how excited she was when she actually heard the parable of the vineyard. If nothing else, it tuned them in to the readings, and gave them something visual to contemplate throughout some VERY LONG services that test the patience of even the most tolerant of children!