Today is Saint Leo the Great’s feast day, our oldest son’s namesake (along with the equally great St. Leo XIII). I love the idea of making name days special, and my husband and I have decided that these will be days of celebration in our family. Again, being catholic, we get lots of celebrations! Most of the resources I’ve found online for celebrating feast days with kids, though, are often aimed at older kids, who can enjoy things like print-outs. My boys want nothing to do with print-outs, at this age, but I’ve still found ways to make feast days special, even for my little ones. Here are a few things that I do:
- Take the opportunity to learn more!
While the kids aren’t really aware of the difference between a regular day and a feast day, I can take the opportunity to beef up on my knowledge of the special days. I know that once my kids are old enough, I’ll want to be prepared to teach them. While it’s fun to learn together, I want to at least have an idea of the basics. This is mostly what I’ve been doing since having kids and, as you could probably imagine, it’s been incredibly nourishing for the soul. I’ve learned so much and really deepened my faith.
Along these lines, since food is a central part of how I like to celebrate things, I use this time to try out new recipes to go with the feast days. I’ve found some awesome ones, along with ones that I probably wouldn’t make again. I like the idea that the kids will come to know what to expect on certain feast days, like they’ll expect turkey on Thanksgiving.
If you don’t enjoy cooking, I say don’t even bother with this- celebrating feast days should be enjoyable, and there are plenty of other things you can do that you enjoy!
2. Do something special, even if it has nothing to do with the feast.
Most often in our family, this means making a special dessert. For instance, today my son knows that he gets to help me make special brownies- something he loves doing. Sometimes I have a fun themed dessert for the feast, but some days, like today, I don’t, and that’s OK. The kids know that treats are special, so, as they grow, they’ll associate something special with the feast day, which will help them learn that the day is important. It’s really simple.
Since we celebrate so many things throughout the liturgical year, I try not to over do it with desserts. Sometimes I’ll make a special healthy snack, or we’ll do something special, like visit a friend, or go somewhere fun. It doesn’t have to be over-the-top, just a little special so they set the day apart from the norm.
3. Tell a simple story about the saint or the day.
My kids love stories, and I don’t think they are the only ones! Actually, I think it’s human nature to love stories (hello binge-watching culture!). Once he was around age two, our son really started engaging with simple stories about the saints. The key is to keep it simple. Visuals are incredibly helpful.
I first started doing this when my son asked about a painting I have of the annunciation. I tried to tell him the story simply and he made me tell it to him over and over again. With my stories, I make sure to repeat it in the exact same way every time. Sometimes he’ll come up to me and start it so that I’ll tell it to him again.
Since I enjoy crafting, and I noticed how valuable props are in story telling, I decided to start making peg dolls of the saints. Today I gave Leo this St. Leo the Great peg doll.
Today, I told Leo the story of St. Leo and Attila the Hun. While this bottle of paint did an excellent job playing the role of the bad guy, I may eventually paint an Attila peg doll to make it more fun.
Leo was so enthralled with the story, he made me repeat it over and over again. He is just starting to get into super heroes, so it was fun to tell him how St. Leo was like a super hero, because he saved Rome from the bad guy. Since it was such a simple story, it really didn’t take much on my part to make it up, but it’s something we can keep telling over and over again, so that he can start to know his namesake and learn from the great things he did. As he gets older, I can expand on the story little by little.
And those are the main things I do! I happen to have some books about various saints, and I always try to read those on their respective feast days, which always goes over well, too.
It’s important to do what works for your family. I know some of my friends who have kids that would love a print-out to color, which is great! I think the key is, however you can do it, make the day seem a little bit special. Eventually, you can really get into the details, but at least with young children, it’s all about wonder. As a parent, I consider it my job to spark wonder in my kids and hopefully help it to flourish.
How have you celebrated feast days with your young children? Let me know in the comments!
St. Leo the Great, pray for us!