The feasts of the Church year are important times for all Orthodox Christians to celebrate! The Antiochian Orthodox Department of Christian Education (AODCE) would like to highlight a resource available on their website, which can be helpful to families looking for ideas of ways to enhance their celebrations of these feasts. The AODCE offers free feast day “stand-up” centerpieces which can be printed directly from their website (athttp://www.antiochian.org/1127698508) onto cardstock. After printing, the centerpieces can be folded according to the instructions on each page, and when the slotted ends are tucked together the page forms a stand-up centerpiece.
Each centerpiece is composed of two different sides that will show when the centerpiece is folded into a stand-up. One side displays the icon of the feast, the date(s) of celebration, and a brief description of the feast and icon. The other side of the centerpiece also shows the icon; and has the troparion of the feast printed beside it.
Here are the printable feast stand-ups (click the links to see them):
The Nativity of Mary the Theotokos (http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/assets/asset_manager/7a5285a4ee783b7342ff8f4e1a99f02b.pdf)
The Exaltation of the Cross (http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/assets/asset_manager/804f8cedc57699833cfee4824634a4b5.pdf)
The Presentation of the Theotokos to the Temple (http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/assets/asset_manager/cacb8660b29bdc97f8e8283ff567634e.pdf)
Theophany: The Baptism of Christ (http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/assets/asset_manager/aae2368f6b752c8cba042e21917405cc.pdf)
The Meeting of Christ in the Temple (http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/assets/asset_manager/0c607395223b6d3ca63332d11fef1dae.pdf)
The Transfiguration of Christ (http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/assets/asset_manager/44cc08f7375825e0a722417e140a9cce.pdf)
The Dormition of the Theotokos (http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/assets/asset_manager/abbe11671878e0c8d20d278ea0ae08af.pdf)
The feast of the Lord’s Entry into Jerusalem (http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/assets/asset_manager/d5aa72ed369c7b1fc58ddd93ebde329a.pdf)
The feast of the Lord’s Ascension (http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/assets/asset_manager/e99a5a84333ba33b10a74cfd228c33c6.pdf)
Here are some ideas of ways to utilize this resource with your family:
1. Print the stand-ups one at a time, as each feast in the church year arrives.
2. After printing the stand-up, encourage your children to color the icons on it. (The icons are small, so colored pencils or fine-tipped markers will probably work best.) While they color, discuss the feast day and the festal icon together. What do you see in the icon? Why is that written into the icon? What can you learn from the icon about the feast? etc. (If you do this year after year, you may want to make notes of the discussion and/or answers your children give to these questions on the back/inside of the stand-up, before you fold and use it, and then at the end of the feast, unfold the stand-up, date it, and keep it in a binder for future reference. It will be interesting to look back, years later, and see how your child’s coloring and thinking skills have progressed!)
3. Place the stand-up where you can see it and be reminded of which feast we are currently celebrating. Perhaps you want to make it a part of your kitchen or dining room table centerpiece, or maybe you will place it in the family prayer corner: wherever it will be seen and can be used as a reminder.
4. Together as a family, sing the troparion of the feast. The words are printed right on the stand-up. (And the music for many of the festal troparia can be found here:http://www.antiochian.org/music/library/889#library_search.) Sing the troparion at morning or evening prayers, before a meal, etc. Let the troparion help your family remember that it is a feasting time, and why.
5. At the end of the year, challenge your family a “Feast Day Challenge.” Challenges can include working together to put the stand-ups in order according to the Church Year calendar (without looking at the dates on them). You could also ask each member of the family to tell something that they remember about each feast and/or the festal icon. Another idea would be to have a “fill-in-the-blank” contest where you read part of the troparion, omitting part of it, and seeing who can remember the missing part.
6. Save the stand-ups to reuse year after year, or disassemble them and save them in a binder as suggested above, if you want to keep track of your children’s coloring/answering progress. If you decide not to save them, cut out the two icons from each stand-up and make a matching/ “go-fish” game with the pieces, at the end of the year; or use them to decorate cards for godparents or lonely parishioners.
The feasts are such an important part of the Church year that it is imperative that we find ways to highlight and celebrate them. Creating your own copies of the AODCE’s stand-up centerpieces is a small yet tangible way that we can involve our children in preparing for the feast. After they are made, the stand-ups become a visible reminder of what it is we are celebrating, a resource of information, and a way to keep the festal icon and troparion before us throughout the course of the feast.