Repost from April, 2011:
I originally posted these last year, but have made a few additions to the boxes, as well as taken some better photos! So, here is another look at my learning boxes for Holy Week. I will mention again, that this is an involved project. When I first had the idea several years ago, it was Lazarus Saturday and I jumped into action planning how I would create them. My wise husband cautioned against it, saying that rather than a blessing, it would be a consuming project for Holy Week, distracting me from what I should be doing. So, I followed his advice, and waited until after Pascha to begin making them. I say this again to caution you - if this is an idea you want to replicate, do it slowly. Do not attempt to pull it together quickly, you will find yourself frustrated and it will not be a joyful project. The wonderful thing about the church rythms is that we can look to next year.
Finally, a word about the use of the boxes. In my home, we have used them in several ways. The first is actually taking them to church on each day of Holy Week. If you have a young child, the items in the box offer a focus. I usually tell my littlest ones to listen through the service, especially at the readings, and see if they can hear mention of each item in the box. The joy on the face of my 4 year old when she heard the parable of the grape vine as she sat holding those plastic grapes was priceless. Some pieces are more interactive. One year I watched as several children in our church sat and carefully lined the palm branches and fabric in the shape of the cross. The icon was placed at the top, and the donkey was walked along the path, over and over again. For a young child, that is prayer. That is meditating on the scripture. That is learning. The boxes may also be used at home. You may wish to read the scripture ahead and present the items. If you are concerned with small pieces being all over the place, take a small placemat to church and roll it out on the floor. Explain that this is the space to work with the box, and the items are to stay on the mat until they are returned to the box. Then watch, and be prepared to have visitors in your aisle as curious children around you are drawn to see what is going on!
This box is for the Mystical Supper, and contains a chalice, bread, an icon of the last supper and figures of Christ and disciples.
This box covers the services of Thursday and Friday, from the Passion Gospel service to Royal Hours on Friday. It contains a small plastic sword which Peter drew to defend Christ in the garden, a 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
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. The prayer card was made in the same way as described above. Another nice item to include in this box would be flower petals gathered from the Lamentations service the evening before.
A great addition to the boxes are the Great Lent and Holy Week Coloring books from Potamitis Publishing, and for older children, the Holy Week and Pascha book is wonderful.
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. Use your own judgement to determine what is safe and best for your children.